Watch out for these 7 signs and symptoms of premature ovarian failure

1% percent of women by the age of 40 experience premature ovarian failure, which results in amenorrhea leading to infertility, lack of sex hormones and increased gonadotropin levels among women. Periods ceasing before age 40 are referred to as premature ovarian failure (POF) and this implies the loss of egg-containing follicles from the ovaries, which also produce oestrogen, the hormone in charge of female characteristics, fertility and many other essential body processes.

In other words, premature ovarian failure also termed primary ovarian insufficiency (POI), is a condition when ovaries or small glands located on both sides of the uterus, stop functioning normally. When this occurs, the ovaries fail to produce enough of the hormone estrogen or are unable to release eggs regularly resulting in infertility.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Dr Shefali Tyagi, Consultant Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Motherhood Hospitals in Bengaluru’s Sarjapur, shared, “Early loss of ovarian function has serious health consequences and considerable psychosocial repercussions. It can lead to the risk of developing weak and brittle bones (osteoporosis), depression, anxiety and an increased risk of heart disease.” According to her, the risk factors for developing primary ovarian insufficiency include:

Age – In terms of age, the risk goes up between ages 35 and 40.

Family history – If any of your family members have a history of primary ovarian insufficiency, they may likely develop Premature ovarian failure.

Women who have undergone ovarian surgery, chemotherapy or radiation may have higher chances of developing this condition.

– In a rare form of autoimmune disease your immune system produces antibodies against your ovarian tissue

– Chromosomal disorders like Turner syndrome or Fragile X syndrome can lead to POF

She highlighted that you may be at a risk if you face any of these 7 symptoms:

1. Irregular or missed periods

2. Facing difficulty to conceive because women with premature ovarian failure do not ovulate or release an egg every month.

3. Teenagers who show minimal or no indications of puberty

4. Experiencing difficulty while concentrating

5. Dry eyes due to the reduction of both estrogen and androgens

6. The thinning of the vaginal walls may cause vaginal dryness.

7. Decrease in sexual desire

As per Dr Satabdi Dey, Fertility Consultant at Nova IVF Fertility in East Siliguri, “Hot flushes, nocturnal sweats, mood swings, recurring urinary tract infections, and vaginal infections are among the typical symptoms (because of thinning and easy bruising of mucosal surfaces). Loss of calcium from the bones, which increases the risk of discomfort and fractures, is another significant issue.”

She added, “While still having regular periods, some women might not exhibit any symptoms. Only after the FSH levels are measured and show elevated levels can the diagnosis be made. This makes it extremely important for a female to be in tune with their body, in case they experience any of the symptoms, they are advised to consult a doctor.”

She listed 6 symptoms that might indicate a potential risk from premature ovarian failure:

1. Changes in periods- One might observe changes in the flow of periods or even the length of bleeding while having a premature ovarian failure.

2. Hot flushes- One of the most common symptoms in a POF is hot flushes.

3. Night sweats and irritability- An increased amount of irritation in one’s mood can be witnessed during POF because night sweats are likely to disturb sleep.

4. Decreased sex drive- POF can lead to a decrease in the sex drive of a female accompanied by painful and uncomfortable sex.

5. Thinning- A premature failure of ovaries can result in dryness and thinning of the vagina.

6. FSH levels- Few women have noticed an elevated FSH during POI.

Dr Shefali Tyagi concluded, “It is advised for women to consult a doctor if they experience any of these symptoms to determine whether it is Premature Ovarian Failure or not. This condition is accompanied by uncomfortable symptoms however with the right treatment and medication, one may be able to avoid the higher risk of complications and might be able to conceive by adopting alternative measures such as IVF, donor eggs and other fertilisation methods.”