Premature Ovarian Failure
What is POF?
Premature Ovarian Failure (POF), also known as Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI), is a loss of ovarian function before the age of 40. POF can affect women at various ages from teenage years to thirties. Women with POF are at a greater risk of a range of health issues, including osteoporosis, estrogen deficiency (hot flashes, vaginal dryness, etc.) and heart diseases. These POF-related issues can usually be managed well with hormonal replacement. However, in an infertility context, POF poses a challenge, as the loss of ovarian function means that the probability of pregnancy with their own eggs is greatly reduced.
Although it is sometimes called early menopause, POF is different from menopause in that POF is not a result of natural (normal) aging process of a woman. In addition, women with POF may continue to have menstrual cycles, though their cycles are irregular. A small percentage of women with POF can conceive naturally, while menopausal women will never get pregnant.
What Causes POF?
There are several known causes for premature ovarian failure, amongst them genetic conditions that affect the X chromosome, such as Turner Syndrome and Fragile X syndrome. AutoimmunityAutoimmunity (immunity against oneself) has also been implicated in POF. In addition, surgical loss of excessive ovarian tissue (for example, after surgery for endometriomas, also called "chocolate cysts") can put the patient into early menopause. Chemotherapy and radiation can also wipe out the follicle pool and cause premature ovarian failure.
Last Updated: November 15, 2014