What Is Premature Ovarian Failure?
Premature ovarian failure, also called primary ovarian insufficiency, refers to the condition when a woman’s ovaries stop working before reaching menopause. Symptoms can be similar to the signs of menopause, including hot flashes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping, vaginal dryness, and mood swings. Although the condition cannot be cured, there are treatment options, such as hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Before starting HRT, consider these 3 facts.
1. HRT improves symptoms but isn’t a cure
Hormone therapy for premature ovarian failure usually involves a combination of taking both estrogen and progestin. The hormones can be taken as a pill, patch, cream, gel, or through a vaginal ring. Not only can HRT improve symptoms such as hot flashes, but the treatment can help to protect women against osteoporosis. Hormone therapy may bring the return of a regular period, but this does not mean that ovarian function has been restored.
2. Know the risks
When taken for premature ovarian failure, women may receive hormone therapy until around the age of 50 or 51. Long-term HRT has been linked to increased risk of heart disease and breast cancer in older women. In younger women, however, the benefits of the treatment usually outweigh the risks. HRT is not the right treatment for women who have severe migraines, risk of blood clots, or uncontrolled high blood pressure.
3. Other steps to take
Women who have declining estrogen levels experience higher rates of bone loss. In the case of primary ovarian insufficiency, doctors will likely prescribe calcium and vitamin D supplements. Additionally, incorporating weight-bearing exercise into a routine is crucial for women with premature ovarian failure. Women who still want to have children may also consider speaking with the doctor about options such as in vitro fertilization (IVF), donor eggs, or adoption.
Diagnosing the condition
The most common symptoms that lead doctors to test for premature ovarian failure include irregular periods and difficulty conceiving. A diagnosis will involve a physical exam and a pelvic exam. The patient will also need to answer questions about the menstrual cycle, exposure to certain toxins, and family history. Doctors will likely check for pregnancy, imbalanced hormones, or certain genetic conditions while making a diagnosis.
Finding treatment options
The right treatment options will vary based on the patient’s age, symptoms, and preferences. Choosing to start HRT is a decision that should be made between the patient and the healthcare provider. To learn more about HRT for premature ovarian failure, speak with a healthcare provider.