Premature ovarian failure, also known as premature ovarian insufficiency, causes a woman to have irregular or no periods. The condition also prevents the ovaries from releasing eggs. Premature ovarian failure can cause fertility problems. This condition should not be mistaken for early menopause, which is a different condition.
Many women do not have signs of premature ovarian failure. This condition is typically diagnosed with a pelvic exam and a series of tests which may include a follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) test, an estradiol test, a karyotype, or a prolactin test. Once premature ovarian insufficiency has been diagnosed, the treatment will focus on issues caused by estrogen deficiency.
In some cases, the cause of this condition cannot be identified. However, sometimes premature ovarian failure may be due to a genetic condition such as Turner syndrome. Premature ovarian failure may also result as a side effect of chemotherapy, an autoimmune disease, infection or enzyme deficiency.
Currently, there is no treatment which can fully restore a woman’s normal ovarian functions. However, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) can help. HRT is a common line of treatment for women with premature ovarian failure. The treatment is usually comprised of estrogen to replace hormones that the body is no longer making. Estrogen therapy also reduces the risk of stroke, heart attack, osteoporosis, and high blood pressure.
After starting estrogen therapy, a woman will usually have regular periods. Many couples who want to start a family choose to use in vitro fertilization (IVF). The procedure entails harvesting eggs from a donor and fertilizing the eggs in a lab with the father’s sperm. The embryo is then implanted in the mother’s uterus.
There have been some studies which may be able to reverse the effects of premature ovarian failure. More research is needed, but the procedure does hold promise for the future. Women with premature ovarian failure can find out more about all treatment options by consulting a fertility specialist.