Premature Ovarian Failure (POF)

Approximately 4% of the female population has premature ovarian failure, an endocrine disorder. For some unknown reason, these women suffer a loss of ova from the ovary. Suggested causes are endless. As the ova are produced while the potential mother is a baby in the womb, so the problem may begin very early on. Clearly, the diet and environment of the mother during pregnancy is crucial to her daughter's health throughout her life, particularly to the fertility of that daughter. The ova may be dysfunctional, or there may be a chromosomal defect, Turner's syndrome, fragile X, metabolic dysfunction or viral infection damage. Autoimmune disorders may also affect ovarian function or the ovaries may be removed at an early age.

Loss of ovarian function in this way may give rise to premature menopause if the hormone balance of the ovary is affected. The follicle and corpus luteum produce steroid hormones as a natural part of the menstrual cycle. With POF, this cycle is lost, so that the hormones do not function as they should. Periods often stop and hot flushes or night sweats may be commonplace. Sleep may become fractious, giving rise to mood swings, a low sex drive, and bladder-control problems. Energy may be low and, of course, fertility is affected.

Two tests on the blood for FSH levels should be done one month apart. Normal FSH levels are 10-15mU/ml and under; women with POF often have FSH levels above 40mU/ml, which is in the postmenopausal range. Health concerns are as in menopause - with the risk of osteoporosis, heart disease, thyroid problems, adrenal problems or diabetes.

Infertility for a young girl as a diagnosis can be utterly soul-destroying. However, 6%-8% of women with POF do become pregnant. Sound nutrition may aid the function of the ovary, endometrium and endocrine glands, and otherwise do no harm. Book your appointment to see Dian now. Medical treatments include HRT and the oral contraceptive pill. Women's support groups can provide helpful advice.