Premature Ovarian Failure (POF): What You Need to Know
Premature Ovarian Failure (POF), also called Premature Menopause, is a condition where a woman loses the normal function of her ovaries before she’s 40.
Statistically, POF isn’t known to be very common as research has shown it occurs in 1 in every 1,000 women aged 15 – 29 and 1 in 100 women aged 30 – 39.
Every woman produces a mature egg that gets released from one of the ovaries each month. This egg either gets fertilized or shed from the body as menstruation.
Each woman gets born with about two million of these eggs or follicles, but only about 300,000 – 400,000 are left by the time she reaches puberty and it is one of these that gets released each month.
However, women with premature ovarian failure experience a slight change as the ovaries don’t function just this way and the follicles might not mature into eggs as they should. With this, it is very likely and quite common for a woman with Premature Ovarian Failure to skip a period, even two at a time.
Nevertheless, this shouldn’t be confused with early menopause as both have very noticeable differences.
Common Differences Between Premature Ovarian Failure and Early Menopause
These are discernible differences you can expect between premature menopause and early menopause:
1) The first difference is the time at which both occur. While early menopause or menopause itself occurs from age 5q and above, premature ovarian failure starts way earlier before the age of 40 and could start well in your 20s.
2) With premature menopause, you still get a period now and then while there is a complete cessation in early menopause.
3) Due to the fact you still get an occasional period, there is the likelihood of still falling pregnant with premature ovarian failure.
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Causes of Premature Ovarian Failure
Some common causes of POF include
- Thyroid Dysfunction
- Genetic or Chromosomal Disorders (such as being a carrier of the Fragile X Syndrome)
- A Viral Infection
- Turner Syndrome
- Certain Eating Disorders (such as anorexia nervosa)
- An Autoimmune Disorder
- Side Effects of Certain Cancer Treatments (like chemotherapy or radiation)
- Unknown Factors
Fast Facts About Premature Ovarian Failure
1) Premature Ovarian Failure is also called Premature Ovarian Insufficiency.
2) There is no known cure for this condition, however, symptoms can be managed using one or more treatments. Treatments are also recommended to reduce health risks.
3) 5 -10% of women diagnosed with POF still go on to become pregnant in a case called spontaneous remission. This happens when the ovaries suddenly start working on their own.
4) The most common treatment for Premature Ovarian Insufficiency is Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT).
5) Hormone Replacement Therapy restores irregular periods and reduces other symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats.
Common Symptoms of Premature Ovarian Failure
Common symptoms that point to the fact you may likely be experiencing premature menopause are:
- Having an irregular period or periods that come at varying intensity or number of days.
- Night sweats.
- Hot flashes
- A reduction in your libido
- Painful sex
- Difficulty concentrating
- Vagina dryness or thinning
Factors that Increase Your Risk of Premature Menopause
The risk increases as woman ages and women aged 35 – 40 have a higher risk.
2) Family History
It’s likely to come down with POF if one or more women in your family have been diagnosed with it.
3) Multiple Ovarian Surgeries
Undergoing surgeries for endometriosis and other such reproductive conditions also increases your risk of POF.
4) Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits
Unhealthy habits such as excessive drinking and smoking (even passive smoking), have also been known to be risk factors.
5) Extreme Stress
Women who are under moderate to extreme stress constantly are also at risk of developing premature menopause.
6) Being Severely Underweight
Being too skinny or severely underweight messes with your ovulation and could predispose you to POF.
While there is no known correlation between epilepsy and premature menopause, studies have shown that women with this health condition are 14% more likely to develop premature menopause than women who aren’t epileptic.
Diagnosis of Premature Ovarian Failure
Most cases of premature ovarian failure present with very little to no symptoms. Your doctor will typically suspect this condition if you present with one or more of these symptoms:
- You have irregular periods.
- You are experiencing difficulties conceiving.
A physical, blood test, pregnancy test, or pelvic ultrasound is then carried out tone certain.
Treatment Options for Women with Premature Ovarian Failure
While POF can be overwhelming, even life-altering, it usually isn’t the end of the world as there are treatments or options with good results recorded.
The severity of the insufficiency would determine the treatment you get placed on.
Some options you could look into are:
1) Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone Replacement Therapy serves as a replacement for estrogen and other key hormones not being produced by the ovaries.
It reduces the risks of cardiovascular diseases as also improves sexual health.
2) Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements
Taking 1,200 -1,500 my of elemental calcium and 1,000 IU of vitamin D comes strongly recommended if you’ve been diagnosed with Premature Ovarian Insufficiency reduces your risks of osteoporosis.
3) Consider IVF
IVF using donor eggs is considered one of the best treatments for women with Premature Ovarian Insufficiency, who still want to have kids.
4) Ovarian Rejuvenation
Ovarian rejuvenation, a POF treatment still in its clinical phase, is yet another option.
Women with low egg reserve or already in menopause can have platelet-rich plasma injected into their ovaries to stimulate healthy egg production.
These plasma stimulate already existing stem cells to transform into healthy cells.
Couples looking to have kids could also consider adoption to get this to come to pass.