Primary Ovarian Insufficiency

What is POF or POI and What to Do if Diagnosed

Premature Ovarian Failure or a better term Primary Ovarian Insufficiency is a disease that affects women under 40.

POI presents as early menopause in some women, even those as young as 13, and as menstrual irregularities such as missed periods.

Women generally are born with enough eggs in their ovaries for ovulation once a month from puberty through menopause.  In young women with POF/POI something has happened to the function or supply of the eggs.  Unlike menopause this is not a natural occurrence.  The loss of ovarian function is occurring at too young an age to be considered natural, although premature, menopause.

The CDC prefers to call this condition Primary Ovarian Insufficiency because the ovaries will function intermittently and a menstrual period will ensue.  The diagnosis is determined by testing FSH levels.  Half of the patients diagnosed have already been to 3 physicians with no results.

As you might have surmised, this diagnosis is devastating to these women; telling them they may not conceive and they are aging at a rate faster than their peers.    Hormone replacement can help and is necessary to protect them from osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.  Counseling and support groups can help these women through their personal prognosis and look for answers.    There are options if conception is not possible:  no kids, adoption, embryo adoption from frozen embryos, egg donation. etc.   The key is to find a physician you have confidence in to lead you in the direction that meets your expectations.

As one physician put it, if you suspect something is not right with your menstrual cycle have some tests.   Don’t wait and pass it off as normal missed periods without testing.  Your menstrual cycle should be treated as a vital sign to your health.   Listen to your body and talk with your physician.

If you are diagnosed with POI there are support groups and counseling available.  One site to explore is titled, “Rachel’s Well”, which can be an excellent source of support and information.