Premature Ovarian Failure (POF), also called Premature Menopause, is a condition where a woman loses the normal function of her ovaries before she’s 40.
Statistically, POF isn’t known to be very common as research has shown it occurs in 1 in every 1,000 women aged 15 – 29 and 1 in 100 women aged 30 – 39.
Every woman produces a mature egg which gets released from one of the ovaries each month. This egg either gets fertilized or shed from the body as menstruation.
Each woman gets born with about two million of these eggs or follicles, but only about 300,000 – 400,000 are left by the time she reaches puberty and it is one of these that get released each month.
However, women with premature ovarian failure experience a slight change as the ovaries don’t function just this way and the follicles might not mature into eggs as they should. With this, it is very likely and quite common for a woman with POF to skip a period, even two at a time.
Nevertheless, this shouldn’t be confused with early menopause as both have very noticeable differences.
Common Differences Between Premature Ovarian Failure and Early Menopause
These are discernible differences you can expect between premature menopause and early menopause:
1. The first difference is the time at which both occur. While early menopause or menopause itself occurs from age 51 and above, premature ovarian failure starts way earlier before the age of 40 and could start well in your 20s.
2. With premature menopause, you still get a period every now and then while there is a complete cessation in early menopause.
3. Due to the fact you still get an occasional period, there is the likelihood of still falling pregnant with premature ovarian failure.
Causes of Premature Ovarian Failure
Some common causes of POF include
– Thyroid Dysfunction
– Genetic or Chromosomal Disorders (such as being a carrier of the Fragile X Syndrome)
– A Viral Infection
– Turner Syndrome
– Certain Eating Disorders (such as anorexia nervosa)
– An Autoimmune Disorder
– Side Effects of Certain Cancer Treatments (like chemotherapy or radiation)
– Unknown Factors
Common Symptoms of Premature Ovarian Failure
Common symptoms that point to the fact you may likely be experiencing premature menopause are:
– Having an irregular period or periods that come at varying intensity or number of days.
– Night sweats.
– Hot flashes
– A reduction in your libido
– Painful sex
– Vagina dryness or thinning
Factors that Increase Your Risk of Premature Menopause
The risk increases as a woman ages and women aged 35 – 40 have a higher risk.
2. Family History
It’s likely to come down with POF if one or more women in your family has been diagnosed with it.
3. Multiple Ovarian Surgeries
Undergoing surgeries for endometriosis an other such reproductive conditions also increases your risk of POF.
4. Unhealthy Lifestyle Habits
Unhealthy habits such as excessive drinking and smoking (even passive smoking), have also been known to be risk factors.
Women who under moderate to extreme stress constantly are also at risk of developing premature menopause.
6. Being Severely Underweight
Being too skinny or severely underweight messes with your ovulation and could predispose you to POF.
While there is no known correlation between epilepsy and premature menopause, studies have shown that women with this health condition are 14% more likely to develop premature menopause than women who aren’t epileptic.
Treatment Options for Women with Premature Ovarian Failure
Whike POF can be overwhelming, even life altering, it usually isn’t the end of the world as there are treatments or options with good results recorded.
Some you could look into are:
– Fertility Treatments
A common one is the use of DHEA
– Making use of donor eggs.