Premature ovarian failure can be explained as early menopause. Menopause begins for most women between the ages of 42 and 56. Premature ovarian failure will occur in 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 symptoms of premature ovarian failure may be similar to those of menopause, including hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and the absence of a period. Women with premature ovarian failure typically begin to have irregular periods that eventually stop completely. POF may occur abruptly over one to two months or gradually over the years.
Women with POF may also have elevated cycle day 3 FSH or estrogen levels. Chemotherapy, radiation therapy, pelvic surgery, and severe pelvic inflammatory disease can cause premature ovarian failure. In most cases, no direct cause is identified.
Determining a premature ovarian failure diagnosis begins with getting a blood test to check whether the ovary is producing estrogen and if the pituitary gland is producing FSH and LH hormones, which stimulate the ovarian follicles. If the blood test shows that estrogen is not being produced and that there are elevated pituitary hormones, it is a clear sign of premature ovarian failure. POF can also be determined by having the ovaries evaluated through a transvaginal ultrasound. If a patient has POF, their ovaries will be small with only a few visible follicles.
There has yet to be found a proven method of stimulating the ovaries with a diagnosis of premature ovarian failure, but there are some treatment options. If you have untreated hypothyroidism, your physician may place you on thyroid medication. Steroid therapy may be used if associated autoimmune problems are discovered. Estrogen replacement therapy may be used to lower the FSH before attempting ovulation induction with human menopausal gonadotropins. Administration of high dose human menopausal gonadotropins after priming with estrogen/progesterone replacement therapy has resulted in pregnancy in some cases.
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