Premature ovarian failure is a reduced function of the ovaries, often indicated by a full year or more without a period.
What is premature ovarian failure?
If your ovaries fail, they do not produce normal amounts of estrogen or release eggs regularly, resulting in infertility and osteoporosis. You should consult your healthcare provider if you are experiencing these symptoms and are concerned about infertility.
Alongside a loss of period, women with premature ovarian failure may also experience symptoms similar to menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, and decreased sexual desire.
Premature ovarian failure is caused by follicle depletion and dysfunction. The follicle houses the egg during the fertilization process, and is regulated by the hormone estrogen. During normal ovarian function, the pituitary gland releases hormones such as estrogen that cause follicles to begin maturing and eventually release the egg during fertilization.
These two follicle defects can be caused by chromosomal issues, treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation, and autoimmune disorders. Therapies such as chemotherapy can damage genetic material in cells, whereas autoimmune disorders produce antibodies that can harm your ovarian tissue.
In order to test for premature ovarian failure, your healthcare provider will measure your FSH levels. FSH is a hormone that stimulates the growth of follicles, and is often abnormally high in women with premature ovarian failure. Healthcare providers treat premature ovarian failure with estrogen therapy and calcium and vitamin D supplements.
Addressing infertility issues are more difficult, as there is no therapy proven to restore fertility to women suffering from this issue. In-vitro fertilization can provide an alternative method of getting pregnant for women experiencing premature ovarian failure.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. “Premature ovarian failure.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Clinic. April 3, 2018. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/premature-ovarian-failure/symptoms-causes/syc-20354683