What is premature ovarian failure?
POF is a decrease or loss of normal ovarian function before the age of 40. When the ovaries fail to function correctly, the female body cannot release sufficient amounts of estrogen or eggs. Also known as primary ovarian insufficiency, restoring estrogen levels can reverse many of the complications associated with the condition. Just because the ovaries have started to fail or failed completely does not mean the condition is permanent.
Common symptoms of POF
Identifying the causes of premature ovarian failure can often be difficult. The most common causes include genetic disorders, chemotherapy and radiation, and exposure to chemicals in cigarettes and pesticides. In rare cases, an ovarian-related autoimmune disease can cause the body to reject the ovaries. Symptoms of POF are very similar to menopausal symptoms. Hot flashes, night sweats, decreased libido, and irregular menstrual cycles are common during premature ovarian failure. Estrogen deficiency often leads to infertility.
Medical science is still working on a method to stimulate ovaries post-diagnosis. Women should understand that, though remission is possible, total reversal is not. Family planning does not need to stop once a woman has been diagnosed with POF. Pregnancy is still entirely possible and many women turn to IVF. When the body’s estrogen levels are too low, the female may not produce viable eggs or any eggs at all. Donor eggs are commonly used. Because the donor eggs do not carry the same low estrogen as the mother’s, a healthy pregnancy is likely.
Pregnancy after POF
Premature ovarian failure does not rule out the possibility of a woman carrying a child. Hormone replacement therapy may help, but an egg donor will likely have to be used. Pregnancy after the loss of ovarian function is still possible. Women with POF should speak with a healthcare provider or fertility specialist regarding fertility and pregnancy options.