Premature Ovarian Failure (POF)

What Is Premature Ovarian Failure (POF)?

Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) is a medical condition in which a woman’s ovaries stop working before she turns 40. In most cases, this means that the woman will not be able to get pregnant naturally, due to hormonal imbalances that cause infertility. The medical term for this condition is primary ovarian insufficiency and it affects between 1-4% of women around the world.

Causes and Risk Factors for POF

There is often no specific cause identified for premature ovarian failure. In some cases, it may be the result of genetic abnormalities, autoimmune diseases, radiation therapy, cancer treatments, or environmental toxins. In addition, women who have a family history of POF are at a higher risk of developing the condition. Other risk factors for POF include: smoking, smoking excessively, polycystic ovary syndrome, or extreme physical stress.

Symptoms of POF

Symptoms of POF may vary from person to person but can include:

  • Infertility
  • Irregular or absent menstrual cycles
  • Low libido
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Painful intercourse
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Weight gain
  • Hair loss
  • Headaches

Diagnosing and Treating POF

Diagnosis of POF typically involves a physical exam, blood tests, and a pelvic ultrasound imaging test. Doctors also typically investigate a woman’s family history for any potential genetic links to the condition. Treatment of POF typically involves hormone replacement therapy, which acts to replace the hormones normally made by the ovaries. Medications such as birth control pills or fertility drugs may also be used in some cases. For women who are unable to conceive naturally, other treatments such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF) may be employed.

Living with POF

Living with POF can be a difficult journey, but there are many resources and support groups available to help women cope with the condition. It’s important to remember that POF does not necessarily mean an end to a woman’s fertility, and that there are treatments available to help. Treatments may not always be successful but there is hope and it is important to talk to your doctor and to find out what options are available to you.