Premature ovarian failure put simply is early menopause. Normally a woman will start to go through menopause between the ages of 42 and 56. POF will occur in 1 in 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 29 and 1 in 100 women between the ages of 30 and 39. The average age of early onset is 27 years. In some cases a family history of POF is linked in about 4% of the women experiencing the condition.
Yes. Women who have premature ovarian failure (POF) may experience some symptoms close to that of menopause such as hot flashes, no period, and vaginal dryness. Usually if a woman has POF, she’ll begin to have irregular periods which will eventually stop altogether. Premature Ovarian Failure may occur abruptly over one to two months or gradually over a several year time frame.
Are there any symptoms?
Another sign of POF is elevated cycle day 3 FSH or the estrogen levels. In most cases of POF, sadly no direct cause is ever identified. Pelvic surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy can cause POF, as can uncommonly severe pelvic inflammatory disease. Acceptance of any infertility diagnosis can be heartbreaking, but in cases of premature ovarian failure many women find it to be a difficult and distressing diagnosis to receive.
The first step in determining a POF diagnosis is a blood test to check whether or not the ovary is producing estrogen and if the pituitary gland is producing the hormones FSH and LH that stimulate the ovarian follicles. If the blood test indicates elevated pituitary hormones and that the ovary is not producing estrogen, then this is a clear sign of POF. Another method to help determine POF, is having a fertility specialist evaluate the ovaries through a transvaginal ultrasound. In POF patients, the ovaries are usually small and there are only a few follicles seen.
Unfortunately, there is no proven method of stimulating the ovaries if POF is diagnosed. However, in some POF cases there are some treatment options. Here are just a few that a fertility specialist may recommend:
- If you have untreated hypothyroidism, your physician will place you on thyroid medication.
- If associated autoimmune problems are found, steroid therapy may be used for some individuals.
- A short course of estrogen replacement therapy may lower the FSH to an acceptable value before attempting ovulation induction with human menopausal gonadotropins. Administration of high dose human menopausal gonadotropins after priming with estrogen/progesterone replacement therapy has resulted in pregnancy in a small number of cases.