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Houston Fertility Center

Understanding Premature Ovarian Failure (POF)

By Sonja Kristiansen, MD on November 29, 2017

Understanding Premature Ovarian Failure (POF)Sometimes known as ovarian insufficiency, premature ovarian failure refers to a woman losing normal ovary function before reaching age 40. This typically means the ovaries do not produce enough estrogen and/or do not release eggs as they normally would. When this happens, a woman experiences infertility or significant issues with fertility.

The team at Houston Fertility Center believes in properly diagnosing and treating fertility problems by using state-of-the-art infertility testing. Let's take a moment to consider the basics of premature ovarian failure.

What Causes Premature Ovarian Failure?

There are many different causes of premature ovarian failure, including:

  • Chromosomal Defects – Certain genetic disorders such as Turner's syndrome and fragile X syndrome have been associated with premature ovarian failure.

  • Autoimmune Diseases – In rare instances, a woman's own immune system may target her own ovarian tissue, leading to damaged eggs or poor ovarian function.

  • Toxins in the Body – Toxins in the body from smoking, chemicals in the environment, pesticides, and viruses could potentially result in premature ovarian failure.

The condition may also be the result of unknown factors.

Premature Ovarian Failure vs. Early Menopause

Premature ovarian failure is sometimes referred to as premature menopause. While both result in female infertility, they are technically two separate issues.

Early/premature menopause means that a woman stops having her period and cannot become pregnant. By contrast, when a woman suffers from premature ovarian failure, she may still have occasional or irregular periods and may still become pregnant, though the chances may be quite low.

Signs and Symptoms of Premature Ovarian Failure

Common signs and symptoms of premature ovarian failure include:

  • Irregular periods
  • Periods that skip a month
  • Problems with conceiving naturally
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Loss of sexual desire
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Problems maintaining concentration

Risk Factors for Premature Ovarian Failure

There are a few common risk factors among women who experience premature ovarian syndrome:

  • Age – The risk of premature ovarian failure increases as a woman reaches her mid-30s.

  • Family History – If your mother or other members of your family experienced premature ovarian failure, there's a chance that you may experience the condition as well.

  • Previous Ovarian Surgery – Women who've undergone surgery to address an ovarian issue are more likely to experience issues with ovarian health and function later in life.

Treatment Options for Premature Ovarian Failure

When addressing premature ovarian failure, in vitro fertilization (IVF) and other advanced fertility treatments may not be necessary. In the first round of treatments, doctors and fertility specialists may focus on increasing estrogen levels through supplements and medication. This may not treat infertility, but it can help manage the side effects of premature ovarian failure.

Estrogen therapy helps introduce more estrogen into a woman's body. Some women may respond positively to the use of calcium and vitamin D supplements. These are good supplements for general wellness can can potentially improve estrogen levels.

If a woman is interested in having a child of her own and has had trouble conceiving for at least a year, treatments like IVF can be discussed as part of a consultation.

Learn More About Treating Female Infertility

For more information about premature ovarian failure and your many options for treatment, we encourage you to contact an experienced female infertility treatment specialist today. The team at Houston Fertility Center will work with you and develop a custom treatment plan for your needs.

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