Primary ovarian insufficiency or POI, also called premature ovarian failure, occurs when the ovaries stop functioning before a woman reaches the age of 40.
Normally, the ovaries produce the hormone oestrogen and release a mature egg each menstrual cycle. IOP causes the ovaries to not produce normal amounts of oestrogen, and they do not produce and release an egg each month.
The most common symptoms of IOP are irregularity or cessation of menstruation, especially if the woman also has hot flashes. Menstruation may occur intermittently or may start again many years after ovarian failure is diagnosed. Due to the decreased level of oestrogen, women with IOP may also have symptoms similar to those of menopause, including.
The symptoms of IOP are similar to the symptoms of women going through menopause.
- Night sweats
- Vaginal dryness
- Irritability, depression or anxiety
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty concentrating or remembering
Because women with ovarian failure have low oestrogen levels at an early age, several conditions are more common in women with ovarian failure than in women without ovarian failure.
- Infertility. In most cases, women with ovarian failure cannot get pregnant naturally. No known fertility treatment is effective with IOP. In most cases, women with IOP can carry a pregnancy to term, but usually need to use donor eggs.
- Osteoporosis. Low oestrogen increases the risk of bone loss and fractures.
- Heart disease. Low oestrogen levels at a young age seem to increase the risk of heart attack over time.
- Depression. Many women with IOP feel a persistent sadness about the unexpected loss of ovarian function. For these women, it may be beneficial to talk to a psychologist.