Premature ovarian failure, also known as primary ovarian insufficiency or hypergonadotropic hypogonadism, is a condition in which the ovaries (which store and release eggs for reproduction) stop functioning normally in a woman less than forty years old. Depending on its cause, premature ovarian failure may develop as early as the teens, or in rare cases the condition may be present at birth.
Premature ovarian failure is sometimes referred to as premature menopause, but this is technically inaccurate because women with premature ovarian failure may still be able to get pregnant without treatment.
Often the first and most common symptom of premature ovarian failure is having irregular or absent periods. Other symptoms are similar to those of menopause, and may include:
- Painful intercourse
- Night sweats or hot flashes
- Difficulty with concentration
- Vaginal dryness
- A decreased sex drive
To diagnose premature ovarian failure, your doctor may review your signs and symptoms, your menstrual cycle, and any history of exposure to toxins, such as chemotherapy or radiation therapy, which may have caused direct injury to follicles and eggs. If you have missed a period, you will first be given a pregnancy test to rule out an unexpected pregnancy. Your doctor may also recommend a blood test to determine the level of a hormone called follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) that is normally present in the body. This test will help determine whether the ovaries are working properly or not.
Because the ovaries are not working correctly, women with premature ovarian failure are less likely to get pregnant, but between five and ten percent of these women may become pregnant without fertility treatment. Other options for pregnancy in women with premature ovarian failure include using donor eggs and treatment with in vitro fertilization.
For more information on premature ovarian failure, please call us at (303) 321-7115 or request an appointment for an initial consultation with one of our doctors.