Premature Ovarian Failure is also called primary ovarian insufficiency, PMO, early menopause or premature menopause. As the names imply, ovaries stop working before age 40, years before the normal time to start menopause. This is a rare condition that renders a woman mostly to completely infertile.
There is no cure but women may still be able to have children using donor eggs or fertility treatments. Known causes of premature ovarian failure include a dysfunction of the ovaries or as a symptom from another major illness like Addison’s disease. However, many women have spontaneous primary ovarian insufficiency which means that the cause is completely unknown.
The most common first symptom of premature ovarian failure are missed or skipped periods. Although a missed period happens at some point in most woman’s lives, women who are trying to get pregnant and usually are regular should contact a gynecologist or doctor when they start skipping periods.
Other common symptoms that occur after a skipped period include lowered sex drive, hot flashes, sweating through clothes when trying to sleep or “night sweats”, trouble concentrating, more easily angered than usual and pain during sexual intercourse. These are also the symptoms of menopause.
According to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, between 5% to 10% of women diagnosed with premature ovarian failure suddenly have functioning ovaries again and can get pregnant. Just why these spontaneous remissions occur to these women is unknown.
Women who have a primary condition like Addison’s disease may become fertile if their illness is treated successfully.
Hormone replacement therapy is often the only treatment available. These are the same hormones that are prescribed for older women going through menopause. Women are also recommended to increase their calcium and vitamin D since estrogen helps with bone health. Women with menopause lack estrogen.
Since wombs are still functional, some women who want to get pregnant use donor eggs since they lack eggs.