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How Does Premature Ovarian Failure Affect Fertility

How Does Premature Ovarian Failure Affect Fertility

Premature ovarian failure also known as primary ovarian insufficiency or hypergonadotropic hypogonadismis occurs when the ovaries-which store and release eggs-stop working before age 40, that is,  the woman may have no or few eggs. Depending on the cause, premature ovarian failure may develop as early as the teen years, or the problem may have been present from birth. A woman who has premature ovarian failure is very likely to have irregular or no periods, infertility problems, and menopause-like symptoms.


POF used to be called premature menopause, but it is not the same as menopause. Menopause is a natural occurrence, but POF is not. If you have POF you might continue to get your period, even if it comes irregularly, and a small percentage of women with POF are able to conceive. Menopausal women stop having their periods completely and cannot get pregnant. It is difficult, though not impossible, for women who have premature ovarian failure to become pregnant.

Although the exact cause of premature ovarian failure may be unknown, a genetic factor or a problem with the body’s immune system may play a role in some women. In an immune system disorder, the body may attack its own tissues-in this case, the ovaries.
Normally, follicles in the ovaries supply women with eggs until age 51, the average age of natural menopause when the supply of eggs is used up. Follicles are also important because they release the hormone estrogen, which is crucial for a woman’s overall health and bone health. So it may be the follicles in the ovaries that are not working properly. Or it may be that you have run out of follicles, and there is no way to make more. In some cases, POF may be genetic and run in families.

The symptoms of premature ovarian failure are similar to those of menopause. Your menstrual periods may become irregular-you have a period one month but not the next-or they may stop. You also may have some or all of the symptoms of menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, vaginal dryness, low sex drive, or trouble sleeping.

Loss of ovarian function affects your fertility because you are not forming or releasing an egg (oocyte). There is no fertility treatment that can restore the normal functioning of your ovaries.
You also should be aware that insufficient estrogen can lead to serious health problems such as osteoporosis (decreased bone density), which can be successfully treated.

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