Information on Premature Ovarian Failure
The human body is a complex machine.
The reproductive system of both males and females is something that has intrigued and fascinated people for many, many years.
The intricate workings of it all still hardly make sense to us today.
To break it down, females have a range of reproductive organs that work together to make a baby.
There is the uterus which is an organ about the size of a peach and is where a fertile egg grows.
Then there are two fallopian tubes, one either side of the uterus.
The ovary glands are found at the end of the fallopian tubes.
During each monthly cycle, these are what dispel a single egg. That egg journeys along the fallopian tubes and into the uterus.
If fertilised, it embeds in the uterus wall lining (called the endometrium) and stays there to grow into a baby.
In most cases, the female body goes through this cycle each month (without the fertilisation part!) from the onset of puberty until the beginning of menopause.
Puberty starts when the first egg is released and the first period happens.
As time goes on and the body ages, the ovary glands produce fewer eggs until menopause happen and it all dries up, so to speak.
However, there are cases where the ovaries fail earlier than usual.
This is called premature ovarian failure.
It is also known as an ovarian insufficiency!
It is basically when the body has less functioning ovaries before the age 40.
Here are common questions about premature ovarian failure to get a better grasp of what is going on here.
Why does premature ovarian failure?
Such questions can be asked about many things that the female body does!
Premature ovarian failure is a complicated situation and can be distressing, especially if someone is trying to fall pregnant.
The reason behind it is a decrease in amounts of the hormone estrogen.
The ovaries glands produce this hormone in excess during each ovulation cycle.
With premature ovarian failure, there are fewer amounts of it and the balance is thrown off. It is possible to restore estrogen levels and bring them back to ‘normal’ amounts.
Is premature ovarian failure the same as menopause?
These two are often mixed up, but they are very different.
Premature ovarian failure is not premature menopause.
A woman experiencing premature ovarian failure can still get regular periods, she won’t be as fertile, although there is still a small chance of pregnancy.
Menopause is when the ovaries don’t produce an egg and a woman can no longer become pregnant.
What are the symptoms of premature ovarian failure?
The female body is a confusing one so it’s hard to what a symptom is trying to tell you.
With premature ovarian failure, some following things may happen:
1. Missed or irregular period
2. Trouble falling pregnant
3. Hot flashes or sweating through the night
4. Excessive vaginal dryness
5. Decreased sex drive
Are there any side effects of premature ovarian failure?
The most obvious side effect is the inability to conceive.
Premature ovarian failure makes it harder, but not impossible to fall pregnant.
There are ways to boost estrogen levels and try to restore regularity to ovarian production, but it will never be full again.
There is also an increased risk of osteoporosis because of the lack of estrogen.
Doctors can recommend suitable supplements to take for this.
There are also lifestyle and diet changes to ease the effects of osteoporosis.
Are there ways to treat premature ovarian failure?
Estrogen therapy is taking a dose of tablets, a mixture of estrogen and progesterone.
Adding progesterone helps to protect the uterus lining and keep it strong.
Unfortunately, estrogen therapy doesn’t produce quick and efficient results and ovarian production will never be back to its full amounts.
Another solution is to take additional vitamin D and calcium supplements.
This is mostly to prevent early onset of osteoporosis.
You might need to get a bone density test before going ahead with these supplements.
As for fertility, this cannot be treated!
It is possible to use IVF with your egg (depending what stage of premature ovarian failure you are at) or a donor egg.
There are also many counselling and grief networks available to help through this unfortunate diagnosis.
How does the doctor diagnose premature ovarian failure?
After a few months of irregular periods or trouble conceiving, it is best to consult a doctor.
It can take a while to reach the diagnosis of premature ovarian failure so patience is important throughout this process, especially considering how broad the symptoms are.
Doctors will need to do a physical exam and pelvic exam.
Some tests doctors will use to find out if it is premature ovarian failure include:
1. Pregnancy test
2. Follicle stimulating hormone test (the hormone that regulates ovarian production)
3. Estradiol test to find out the estrogen levels
4. Prolactin test (the hormone that stimulates breast milk production)
5. Karyotype to test all 46 chromosomes for abnormalities
6. FMR1 gene testing to test for genetic related conditions
Is there anything I can do about it at home?
Premature ovarian failure has a physical and emotional impact on all facets of life.
To help deal with the diagnosis, there are things you can do at home to make positive differences.
For example, ensuring you have a calcium rich diet to prevent osteoporosis is a good step. Also, doing weight bearing exercises and staying fit and active will help.
Keep track of your menstrual cycles and know that spontaneous conception may occur.
If you are trying for children when you get diagnosed with premature ovarian failure, joining some support networks and finding out information about alternative ways to conceive can help.
Remember that this can be an emotionally fragile diagnosis.
It is important to talk about the feelings that come with and reach out to close friends, family members, or a partner.
Keeping communication open during doctor appointments will help to ease the burden.
Always give yourself time to come to terms with a diagnosis and deal with the next steps slowly.