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Coping with premature ovarian failure

Posted by Corey Whelan on with 1 Comments


Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) refers to a loss of ovarian function in women under the age of 40.  POF, also known as Primary Ovarian Insufficiency, is marked by an elevation in follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and low estrogen.  The diagnosis of POF is typically suspected after four months in which no menstruation occurs, coupled with two FSH tests taken at least two weeks apart that show hormonal levels greater than 40 mIU/ML. A pregnancy test is often performed first to rule out the possibility that your periods have stopped because you are pregnant.


POF is not menopause.  Women who have gone through menopause never menstruate again.  Women with POF may occasionally get a period, and somewhere around 5-10% may even conceive naturally.  Studies show that POF occurs in about 1 in 1,000 women between the ages of 15 and 29 and 1 in 100 women between the ages of 30 and 39.  The average age of onset is typically 27, although sometimes young women will present with POF prior to menses beginning.

Symptoms of POF include:

  • Irregular or skipped periods
  • Hot flashes
  • Night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Irritability
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Decreased memory
  • Migraine headaches
  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Infertility

There is no typical menstruation history associated with POF.   Some women who are taking birth control pills may not even realize that they have had it for years.  In other women, menstruation never resumes again after they have given birth.  Some women simply start skipping periods without any apparent cause.  As POF sometimes runs in families, your sister or your mother may also have this diagnosis or set of symptoms.  An upsetting reality for many women, however, is the fact that the reason they themselves have manifested POF may forever remain unknown. 

Want to learn more?  Click here to read Path2Parenthood's comprehensive fact sheet on this topic.

Click here to watch a short video on premature ovarian failure.


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Julia John Sep 24, 2011 7:15am

thanks for sharing this detail, it really helpful, thanks