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Premature Ovarian Failure
You are considered to have premature ovarian failure (POF) if you are 40 years old or younger and your ovaries no longer ovulate (release eggs).
What Is Premature Ovarian Failure?
Premature ovarian failure — also known as primary ovarian insufficiency or hypergonadotropic hypogonadismis — is a stop in the normal functioning of the ovaries in a woman younger than age 40.
POF used to be called premature menopause, but it is not the same as menopause. Menopause is a natural occurrence, but POF is not. If you have POF you might continue to get your period, even if it comes irregularly, and a small percentage of women with POF are able to conceive. Menopausal women stop having their periods completely and cannot get pregnant.
About 250,000 to 1 million women in the U.S. have POF. It affects 1 in every 100 women between the ages of 30-39 and approximately 1 in every 1,000 between the ages of 15-29. You can get it at any age or time in your life, whether or not you have had children.
What Causes Premature Ovarian Failure?
Normally, follicles in the ovaries supply women with eggs until age 51, the average age of natural menopause when the supply of eggs is used up. Follicles are also important because they release the hormone estrogen, which is crucial for a woman’s overall health and bone health.
Although researchers know the ovaries stop functioning normally in POF, in most cases they do not know exactly what causes it. It may be the follicles in your ovaries are not working properly. Or it may be that you have run out of follicles, and there is no way to make more. In some cases, POF may be genetic and run in families.
How Does POF Affect Fertility?
Loss of ovarian function affects your fertility because you are not forming or releasing an egg (oocyte). There is no fertility treatment that can restore the normal functioning of your ovaries.
You also should be aware that insufficient estrogen can lead to serious health problems such as osteoporosis (decreased bone density), which can be successfully treated.