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What is Premature Ovarian Failure?


Updated December 14, 2005

Question: What is Premature Ovarian Failure?
Answer: Often called POF by health care providers, premature ovarian failure is defined as an early cessation of menstruation in women who are under age 40 or a decrease in ovarian function with a decrease in production of hormones. While, it’s perfectly normal for women over age 40 to experience a decline in fertility and the menstrual irregularities that accompany the normal ovarian failure that occurs during perimenopause, when these changes occur in women under age 40, sometimes also occurring during a girl’s teenage years, these abnormalities are referred to as premature ovarian failure or POF. Other terms you may hear to describe POF include primary ovarian insufficiency and ovarian hypofunction.

Premature menopause was a term used to describe premature ovarian failure in the past. However, this term does not accurately describe what happens to women who experience POF. One of the big differences is that a woman who has experienced natural menopause, in most cases, will never have another period: while, a woman who experiences premature ovarian failure has a good chance of future periods – even if they are irregular or abnormal in some way. Another important difference is the fact that a woman who experiences natural or surgical menopause has no chance of becoming pregnant, while women with premature ovarian failure still has a chance of conceiving.

Reference: National Institute of Child Health and Human Development – NICHD: “Do I Have Premature Ovarian Failure?”
About Healthcare: Ovarian Hypofunction
Accessed: 12/14/05

Published on About.com 12/14/05

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