What Causes Premature Ovarian Failure In Younger Women?
Are you in your 30s? Then, you would understand that premature loss of ovarian function among the millennial population is truly horrifying. In fact, it is one of the leading causes of infertility in women owing to abnormal ovarian reserve. So what causes premature ovarian failure in young adults? Find out here.
Often getting pregnant is not as easy as it is portrayed on the screen. Take the American model, Chrissy Teigen’s case, who underwent IVF to conceive and later froze her eggs to be able to have more children. In India, more than 10-14% of women experience fertility complications, the Indian Society of Assisted Reproduction. Further, it added that this trend is higher in urban areas with one out of six couples going through fertility issues. One of the main causes of infertility is the premature ovarian failure (POF). Its prevalence has increased dramatically, suggests Farhadi Dizaji Safiyeh and team in their research paper in Elsevier, in 2021. Supporting this, Chon and his team say that 1% of women under 40 years suffer from Premature Ovarian Failure.
Related story: What Causes Premature Ovarian Failure in Younger Women
Now, one might wonder what premature ovarian failure is and why it is a matter of concern. Let me break it down for you. Premature ovarian failure occurs when the ovaries lose their ability to function properly before the age of 40. As a result, the ovaries don’t produce adequate amounts of estrogen. To make things more complicated, it is accompanied by cessation of menses way before the age of menopause. In some cases, premature ovarian failure may result in infertility.
Often, premature ovarian failure is confused with premature menopause, however, the conditions are not the same. Women suffering from premature ovarian failure can restore their estrogen levels and get pregnant. Conversely, women suffering from premature menopause cannot get pregnant.
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Causes of Premature Ovarian Failure
Even though the root cause for most premature ovarian failure cases is ambiguous, extensive research has helped us put together a comprehensive list of reasons:
1. Genetic Changes: Changes in the X chromosome are allied to this disorder. Often mosaic Turner syndrome and Fragile X syndrome are associated with premature ovarian failure.
2. Accumulation of toxins: The build-up of harmful pollutants in the body because of cigarette smoke, pesticides, or viruses triggers ovarian failure. Most significantly, it has been observed that chemotherapy and radiation therapy hasten the damage.
3. Autoimmunity: In this case, our immune system recognises self-cells as foreign and puts up a defense against them. In the case of premature ovarian failure, antibodies are raised against ovarian tissues damaging the egg.
4. Follicle number: Follicles are necessary for the eggs to grow. Damage to the follicle as well as the low count will affect the production of eggs. However, its link to premature ovarian failure is still unknown.
5. Metabolic disorders: In this case, the body produces chemicals that block pathways that are important for the normal functioning of an organ.
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Checklist Of Signs And Factors To Track Premature Ovarian Failure
Having mentioned all the various factors above, the primary cause of premature ovarian failure is still unknown. Further, let us look at aspects that increase the incidence of premature ovarian failure in younger women. One of the most common factors is family history. If the mother has suffered from POF, the daughter will likely be diagnosed with premature ovarian failure. That apart, family history and genes play a significant role.
If you suspect premature ovarian failure, the things to look out for are:
1. Hot flashes
2. Night sweats
4. Decreased sex drive
5. Pain during penetration, and
6. Vaginal dryness
Visit your health care specialists if you experience the said symptoms. The doctor would run a couple of tests (blood and pelvic ultrasound) and ask a few questions (medical history and pregnancy) to narrow down the diagnosis.
Premature ovarian failure is rare, however, very critical because it is associated with other severe health complications such as anxiety, depression, heart disease, low thyroid function, and osteoporosis.
Related story: 7 Myths About Female Fertility And Conception
Treatment For Premature Ovarian Failure
Finally, let us discuss if there is a way out of premature ovarian failure.
1. Hormonal replacement therapy is the most substantial treatment that supplies the necessary hormones to improve the condition.
2. Supplements for calcium and Vitamin D to cope with osteoporosis
3. In vitro fertilization
4. Physical activities to maintain healthy body weight, thereby reducing the other POF related risks
Also, it is necessary to get proper treatment for disorders associated with premature ovarian failure to lead a healthy life.
This article is verfied by Dr Sarika Gupta, a Consultant, Gynecologic Oncology and Robotic Gynaecology, at Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, New Delhi.
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