This topic contains
information about loss of ovarian function before age 40. If you want
information about the normal loss of ovarian function around age 50 or about
symptoms in the few years before it, see the topic
Menopause and Perimenopause.
What is premature ovarian failure?
ovarian failure occurs when your
ovaries-which store and release eggs-stop working
before age 40. You may have no or few eggs. Depending on the cause, premature
ovarian failure may develop as early as the teen years, or the problem may have
been present from birth.
It’s a question many women wonder about, especially if you’re thinking about planning a family and your 20s are but a distant memory.
How many more years of fertility might you have, and how much longer will it be before you start experiencing “the change?”
Here's what does -- and does not influence the age at when a woman reaches menopause.
A woman who has premature ovarian
failure is very likely to have irregular or no periods, infertility problems,
and menopause-like symptoms. It is difficult, though not impossible, for women
who have premature ovarian failure to become pregnant.
What causes premature ovarian failure?
the exact cause of premature ovarian failure may be unknown, a genetic factor
or a problem with the body's
immune system may play a role in some women. In an
immune system disorder, the body may attack its own tissues-in this case, the
Premature ovarian failure may develop after a
hysterectomy or other pelvic surgery or from radiation
or chemotherapy treatment for cancer. In some of these cases, the condition may
be temporary, with the ovaries starting to work again some years later.
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of premature
ovarian failure are similar to those of menopause. Your menstrual periods may
become irregular-you have a period one month but not the next-or they may stop.
You also may have some or all of the symptoms of menopause, such as hot
flashes, night sweats, irritability, vaginal dryness, low sex drive, or trouble
How is premature ovarian failure diagnosed?
your periods become irregular or stop, your doctor will give you a physical
examination and ask you questions about your general health and whether you
have other symptoms of premature ovarian failure. You will also have a
pregnancy test, and your blood will be tested for other possible causes of
To check for possible ovarian failure, your
blood level of
follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) will be checked.
FSH signals your body to release an egg every month. If the amount of FSH in
your blood is higher than normal on more than one day, you may have premature
ovarian failure. Another blood test also may be done to measure the amount of
estradiol (or estrogen) in your blood. Very low estrogen with a high FSH is a
sign of premature ovarian failure.
Some women find out they have
premature ovarian failure when they see a doctor because they are having
trouble getting pregnant.