What Is Premature Ovarian Failure?

What is premature ovarian failure, and how do I know if I have it?
profile picture of John Rinehart, MD, PhD, Reproductive Medicine Institute, Chicago
ByJohn Rinehart, MD, PhD, Reproductive Medicine Institute, Chicago
Fertility Specialist
Updated
Mar 2017
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If you’re under age 40 and have gone a full year without getting your period, you may have developed premature ovarian failure, also known as ovarian hypofunction, which means a reduced function of the ovaries. One of the ways your doctor will be able to determine whether you have premature ovarian failure is by measuring levels of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which is elevated in women with this condition. It can be caused by a number of factors, including autoimmune or thyroid disorders that disrupt the normal function of your ovaries, genetics, or as a side effect of  chemotherapy or radiation. Along with not getting your period, you may also have menopause-like symptoms, for example: hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness and mood swings. Estrogen therapy can help minimize some of the more uncomfortable symptoms of menopause and prevent bone loss, but it won’t do much to help you get pregnant, if that’s your goal. Unfortunately, less than 10 percent of women with premature ovarian failure are able to conceive, although the odds go up to 50 percent if you use fertilized donor eggs.

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