Premature Ovarian Failure (POF)

Definition - What does Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) mean?

Premature ovarian failure (POF) is a condition in which the menstrual cycle stops and the ovaries stop releasing eggs well before age 40. This can result in menstrual irregularity and infertility. Premature ovarian failure typically occurs as a result of chromosomal abnormalities, autoimmune disorders or cancer treatment. This is called primary ovarian failure. Ovarian failure may also be caused by a disruption of the regulatory signals in the brain that control the female hormonal and ovarian cycles. This is called secondary ovarian failure.

Premature ovarian failure can also be known as primary ovarian insufficiency or early menopause.

FertilitySmarts explains Premature Ovarian Failure (POF)

Ovarian failure is a natural part of the aging process and typically occurs as a part of menopause, the mean age of onset for which is 51 years. Ovarian failure is considered premature when it occurs in women under the age of 40. Hormonally, POF is marked by abnormally low levels of estrogen and follicle stimulating hormone, which circulates at higher levels because the ovaries are no longer producing estrogen and developing fertile eggs in response to follicle stimulating hormone. The symptoms of POF include:

  • Infertility
  • Menstrual irregularity
  • Hot flushes
  • Low sex drive
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Irritability and sleep disturbances

The diagnosis is typically confirmed by measuring levels of follicle stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone and estradiol. Depending on its cause, premature ovarian failure may be treated with supplemental hormones or donor egg in vitro fertilization.

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