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What is premature ovarian failure?

Even women in the 20s can find themselves with the symptoms of menopause, and whilst most women will at some time in their lives skip a period or two, there are signs you should do something about as quickly as possible.

Posted: 27 February 2007
by Laura Lee Davies

All women are born with all the eggs they are ever going to produce, but even by the time we are born, the supply has depleted. However, for most women, the supply of eggs ensures they will ovulate regularly from their early teens to some time between the age of 46 and 55, when the menopause begins. For sufferers of Premature Ovarian Failure, though, the menopause can arrive as early as their teens or 20s.

What is Premature Ovarian Failure?
Simply, POF is when the menopause begins years before it should naturally do so.
It affects between one and four per cent of women. The cause is not always known and cannot be predicted, though some serious illnesses, ongoing conditions or genetic predispositions can sometimes be cited.
The symptoms include missed periods, low sex drive or pain during sex, other menopausal symptoms like vaginal dryness, trouble sleeping, hot flushes, and energy loss.

What can be done about POF?
Many women miss periods from time to time due to all kinds of reasons from a major change in their daily routine, to weight loss, to stress. POF is a very rare condition and you should not worry unneccessarily about it.
However, if you do feel that you have suffered any one or any combination of the symptoms, it is worth discussing them with your GP now, as simple tests can rule POF in or out.
If you are found to have the condition but it is diagnosed early enough, it may be possible to have some form of assisted conception to help stimulate remaining eggs or to encourage a successful pregnancy before the progress to full menopause is complete.

If you would like more advice and information on the condition, the website of the International Premature Ovarian Failure Association is an excellent resource.

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