Is Premature Ovarian Failure Stopping you From Getting Pregnant?
Premature ovarian failure, POF, is when the ovaries stop functioning normally in women under the age of 40. This condition is also known as “primary ovarian insufficiency”.
Doctors once labelled this condition as early menopause; however premature ovarian failure is very unlike early menopause. Once you go into menopause it’s not likely that you’ll have another period again.
With premature ovarian function, you’ll still be having your period although it will be irregular and not easy to track when the next one is going to happen.
As well, when you’re in menopause it’s almost impossible for you to get pregnant whereas with POF you may still be able to conceive even though your chances are significantly reduced.
Recognizing the Symptoms of Premature Ovarian Failure
It can be difficult to recognize the symptoms of POF. The most common symptom is that your periods will become irregular or you’ll start missing periods altogether.
Some of the other symptoms that you may experience include:
- Night sweats
- Hot flashes
- Decreased sex drive
- Mood swings
- Difficulty concentrating
- Vaginal dryness
If you and your partner have been trying to get pregnant, that may be your first signal that there’s something wrong.
When your ovaries aren’t working correctly, it can be very difficult for you to conceive. Infertility caused by POF can be difficult to diagnose and treat.
Only about 10 percent of women who have been diagnosed with premature ovarian failure will go on to conceive naturally.
This means that if you fall into this 90 percent range you may have to seek fertility treatment.
Wondering How you Got POF?
There are two main reasons that lead to premature ovarian failure: ovarian follicle disruption or depletion.
In women who have ovaries that are functioning normally, the pituitary gland will release hormones throughout the menstrual cycle so that follicles in the ovaries that contain the eggs will start to mature.
For most women, only one follicle will become mature each month. The mature follicle will release the egg into the fallopian tube where it can then be fertilized by the sperm.
In women with POF, ovarian abnormalities prevent the egg from being available for fertilization.
Just what is Follicle Disruption and Depletion in Relation to POF?
Without normal follicle function, your ovaries are at risk, leading to your infertility problems.
Some of the causes of follicle disruption include autoimmune disease when the antibodies produced by your immune system may be damaging the follicles and harming your eggs.
It’s not yet certain what triggers this type of immune response although some research indicates that one possibility might be contacted with a virus. For follicle depletion, the causes are more definite.
There are some genetic disorders that are linked to premature ovarian failure, such as Turner’s syndrome. Another cause of follicle depletion is exposure to toxins such as radiation and chemotherapy.
These types of medical treatments can damage the genetic structure of cells. Still, other toxins include chemicals, pesticides, and cigarette smoke.
Is There Hope of Pregnancy with Premature Ovarian Failure?
Before your doctor can treat your POF, a firm diagnosis will have to be made. Your doctor will start with a complete physical exam and obtain a history of your menstrual cycle and any symptoms you might be experiencing other than your inability to get pregnant.
There are several different tests you’ll undergo as part of diagnosis and treatment. This includes the following.
- FSH Test (follicle stimulating hormone): Women who have POF often will have very high levels of FSH in their blood.
- LH Test (luteinizing hormone): This hormone triggers the mature follicle to release an egg. Women who have POF typically have low LH levels.
- Serum Estradiol Test: Estradiol is an estrogen hormone. Women with premature ovarian failure will have low levels of estrogen.
- Karyotype Test: This test will look at each of the 46 hormones to see if there are any abnormalities. Some women who have POF will have only one X chromosome.
Treatment for premature ovarian failure is usually specific to the particular POF issue you might be experiencing. One of the main concerns when it comes to POF other than infertility is the risks associated with estrogen loss.
Some of these risks include osteoporosis, low thyroid function, and heart disease. Estrogen treatment is used to provide relief from hot flashes and to replace the estrogen that your ovaries would normally produce.
Estrogen is often used with progesterone, which protects the uterine lining. Vitamin D and calcium supplements are also important in preventing osteoporosis.
Grieving Your Fertility
There is no treatment that can fully restore your fertility if you have premature ovarian failure. While there is a treatment for the symptoms, the reality is that your ovaries aren’t functioning, and this function can’t be repaired.
You may need to take some time to grieve the loss of your fertility and talk to a counsellor about this loss and what it means to your future.
The important thing to remember is that there are options available that can help you start your family.