Understanding Premature Ovarian Insufficiency

Published: 07/07/2023

Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options for those with POI

Early menopause can happen if a woman's ovaries stop making normal levels of certain hormones, particularly oestrogen. Also called Premature Ovarian Insufficiency, (POI) it is a condition where the ovaries stop producing hormones prior to the age of 40 years old.  This can be due to several different causes, for example: surgical; medical; auto-immune; chromosomal abnormalities; and certain infections. 

How Common is Premature Ovarian Insufficiency?

Although it is not a common condition it is certainly not rare. Approximately 1 in 100 individuals experience POI under 40 years; 1 in 1000 under 30s and 1 in 10,000 under 20 years. As a result of the ovaries failing the individual becomes more vulnerable to long-term conditions which need careful management and monitoring.

What are the Symptoms of Premature Ovarian Insufficiency

The symptoms of Premature Ovarian Insufficiency may vary among individuals, but they typically include irregular or missed periods, hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, mood swings, decreased sexual desire, and difficulty conceiving. Women with POI may also experience symptoms associated with oestrogen deficiency, such as osteoporosis or an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. It is important to note that while some women may still conceive naturally with POI, the chances of infertility are significantly higher compared to women with normal ovarian function. 

The Impact of Premature Ovarian Insufficiency on Fertility

Individuals who experience POI may not have started or completed their families and may be very distressed at the thought of being unable to do so due to their condition. Whilst the possibility of pregnancy is lower than for individuals without POI, infertility is not guaranteed. If pregnancy is desired by the individual there are some options they can explore.

If the POI is due to surgical or medical intervention, such as post-hysterectomy, chemotherapy or radiotherapy treatments, the individual should be offered egg harvesting and preservation, (oocyte/embryo cryopreservation) prior to commencing treatment. This allows the individual to store eggs or fertilised embryos for later use via in vitro fertilisation techniques.

However, if the condition is because of other causes this is unlikely to be an option as the cause occurs spontaneously. The chance of natural conception without assistance is approximately 5-10% therefore it is likely fertility assistance will be required. The individual can request a referral to a fertility clinic via their GP.

The individual may be offered the use of donated eggs to be carried by the individual or a surrogate and implanted using in vitro fertilisation techniques.

Support through myTamarin

For information and advice about fertility treatments, book a confidential chat with a fertility advisor at myTamarin and for further advice about POI contact a menopause advisor via the website or through the app.

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