Houston Fertility Center

Premature Ovarian Failure vs. Early Menopause

By Sonja Kristiansen, MD on February 08, 2019

A woman undergoing an abdominal ultrasound Premature ovarian failure is a condition in which hormone production in the ovaries is diminished, affecting the ovaries ability to release eggs.

Premature ovarian failure shares many symptoms with early menopause. Dr. Sonja Kristiansen offers comprehensive fertility testing to determine whether the cause of symptoms is premature ovarian failure versus early menopause at our fertility center in Houston, TX.

Although premature ovarian failure and early menopause have similarities, they are very different, especially in regard to reproduction. Find out more as we take a closer look at premature ovarian failure versus early menopause.

What Is Premature Ovarian Failure?

Premature ovarian failure, also called primary ovarian insufficiency, refers to a condition in which the ovaries stop their normal function before a woman reaches the age of 40. As a result, insufficient levels of estrogen are released and the ovaries fail to regularly release eggs.

Premature ovarian failure can affect the menstrual cycle, causing affected women to have irregular or occasional periods. Some women may struggle with infertility as a result while others may be become pregnant.

What Is Early Menopause?

Menopause is the normal decline in reproductive hormones that most women begin to experience around the age of 50. As reproductive hormones decrease during menopause, ovulation stops, as well as menstruation, marking the end of a woman's reproductive years.

Some women may begin to undergo menopause well before their 50s. When menopause begins before the age of 40, it is considered early menopause. Early menopause is sometimes genetic or may occur as a result of an illness or from a medical procedure.

As with normal menopause, women who experience early menopause will no longer ovulate or menstruate, leaving them unable to naturally conceive.

The Symptoms of Premature Ovarian Failure and Early Menopause

The symptoms of premature ovarian failure are similar to early menopause, which can cause premature ovarian failure to be confused with early menopause. Both conditions share symptoms such as:

  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Decreased sex drive
  • Irritability
  • Irregular periods

It's important to note that irregular periods can last for years with premature ovarian failure.

As early menopause sets in and progresses, periods will become irregular and eventually stop altogether.

Because symptoms are so similar, it is often necessary to see a doctor to determine the cause of symptoms.

How Are Premature Ovarian Failure and Early Menopause Different?

Although premature ovarian failure and early menopause may seem similar, they are quite different. Women who experience early menopause are reaching the end of their fertile years and will no longer ovulate or menstruate.

On the other hand, women with premature ovarian failure may ovulate and get their period, even if irregular, for years after the onset of this condition.

Women with premature ovarian failure may face fertility issues, but pregnancy is still possible. Unfortunately, women who have experienced early menopause are no longer fertile and cannot naturally become pregnant.

Can Fertility Treatment Help?

Fertility treatment can help women who experience premature ovarian failure and early menopause experience pregnancy and the joys of motherhood.

Although women with premature ovarian failure may be able to conceive on their own, they often face fertility issues because ovulation is irregular. In vitro fertilization (IVF) and other fertility treatments can help women with premature ovarian failure overcome their condition and become pregnant.

Women who have undergone early menopause are no longer fertile and cannot conceive without intervention. IVF is an option for women who have experienced early menopause to carry a child. In order to use her own eggs, a woman's eggs would need to be harvested and frozen before menopause since eggs are no longer produced once menopause occurs. If eggs were not preserved, donor eggs are an option.

Learn More about Fertility Treatments

If you have had difficulty conceiving, fertility treatments may be right for your family planning needs. To find out more about fertility treatments, please call (713) 862-6181 to schedule a consultation.

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