Premature ovarian failure, sometimes referred to as primary ovarian insufficiency, means function decline of the ovaries in women under the age of 40. Your ovaries are dual functioning organs that are involved in reproduction and endocrine system because they ovulate an egg for fertilization and produce hormones. Therefore, ovaries that fail to function normally during a female’s reproductive years causes premature infertility and female hormone imbalance.
Premature ovarian failure and menopause are distinct health conditions, although some resulting symptoms are the same. The fundamental difference between the two is the possibility of pregnancy. With premature ovarian failure, your menstrual cycle and ovulation can sporadically occur for years. After menopause, you’ll experience an irreversible cessation of reproduction capability.
So with menopause there’s no chance of getting pregnant. Reproduction is viable with ovarian insufficiency, yet unlikely. Some women go through menopause prematurely and the ability to become pregnant distinguishes it from ovarian failure as well. Generally, menopause starts to occur between 45 and 55 years old.
- dietary changes
- extreme exercise
- excessive weight loss
- eating disorder ~ bulimia, anorexia nervosa
In addition to irregular periods, you might also experience what’s classically characterized as menopause symptoms, such as:
Missed or irregular periods occurring beyond three menstrual cycles should be evaluated by your health care provider, with or without the accompaniment of menopause symptoms. Although you may be grateful for the break from menstruation, certain treatments are helpful in reducing symptom discomfort and associated risk of complications. Possible complications of premature ovarian failure include:
- heart disease
- Addison’s disease
- depression, anxiety
- reduced thyroid function
To help understand what may be causing your reproductive dysfunction, let’s start with normal ovarian function. Your pituitary gland releases certain hormones that trigger a small number of follicles in your ovaries to begin maturing. Usually, only one reaches maturity each month, which bursts open and releases an egg for possible sperm fertilization.
There are two basic reasons an ovary does not release an egg. One is follicle depletion and the other is something occurs to disrupt the process for follicles to mature. Follicle depletion may be simply because you run out. Other causes can be the result of a genetic disorder or toxins damaging otherwise healthy cells, for instance via chemotherapy, radiation therapy, cigarette smoke, chemicals, pesticides or viruses. Follicle disruption may be caused by your immune system producing antibodies that targets itself, what’s referred to as an autoimmune disease. However, what caused your ovaries to stop functioning properly may never be determined.
Treatment for premature ovarian failure is frequently hormone replacement therapy, which targets symptoms and risks related to estrogen deficiency. And although infertility is common, there’s no treatment that guarantees restoration of your fertility. So in this case, many couples who desire to have children opt for in vitro fertilization using donor eggs.