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Premature Ovarian Failure

Premature ovarian failure is reduced function of the ovaries (including decreased production of hormones).

Causes

Premature ovarian failure may be caused by genetic factors such as chromosome abnormalities. It may also occur with certain autoimmune disorders that disrupt the normal function of the ovaries.

Chemotherapy and radiation therapy can also cause the condition to occur.

Symptoms

Women with premature ovarian failure may develop symptoms of menopause, which include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Irregular or absent periods
  • Mood swings
  • Night sweats
  • Vaginal dryness

This condition may also make it hard for a woman to become pregnant.

Exams and Tests

A blood test will be done to check your level of follicle-stimulating hormone, or FSH. FSH levels are higher than normal in women with premature ovarian failure.

Other blood tests may be done to look for autoimmune disorders or thyroid disease.

Women with premature ovarian failure who want to become pregnant may be concerned about their ability to conceive. Those younger than age 30 may have a chromosome analysis to check for problems. In most cases, older women who are close to menopause do not need this test.

Treatment

Estrogen therapy often helps relieve menopausal symptoms and prevents bone loss. However, it will not increase your chances of becoming pregnant. Fewer than 1 in 10 women with this condition will be able to get pregnant. The chance of getting pregnant increases to 50% when you use a fertilized donor egg (an egg from another woman).

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your health care provider if:

  • You are no longer having monthly periods.
  • You have symptoms of early menopause.
  • You are having difficulty becoming pregnant.

Alternative Names

Ovarian hypofunction; Ovarian insufficiency

References

Broekmans FJ, Fauser BCJM. Female infertility: evaluation and management. In: Jameson JL, De Groot LJ, de Kretser DM, et al, eds. Endocrinology: Adult and Pediatric. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 132.

Bulun SE. Physiology and pathology of the female reproductive axis. In: Melmed S, Polonsky KS, Larsen PR, Kronenberg HM, eds. Williams Textbook of Endocrinology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 17.

Lobo RA. Menopause and care of the mature woman: endocrinology, consequences of estrogen deficiency, effects of hormone therapy, and other treatment options. In: Lobo RA, Gershenson DM, Lentz GM, Valea FA, eds. Comprehensive Gynecology. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 14.

Review Date 4/19/2018

Updated by: John D. Jacobson, MD, Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Loma Linda University School of Medicine, Loma Linda Center for Fertility, Loma Linda, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.