Ovarian insufficiency is a condition that can affect women between the ages of 35 and 40, greatly reducing their chances of having a baby.
Ovarian insufficiency, also known as premature ovarian failure, occurs when the follicles within the ovaries only sporadically release an egg. This condition greatly reduces a woman’s chances of achieving pregnancy.
Ovarian insufficiency is sometimes mistaken for premature menopause, but there are distinct differences between the two conditions. Women who experience premature menopause stop having periods before age 40. By contrast, women with ovarian insufficiency menstruate occasionally, with irregular periods beginning between age 35 and 40. As a result, they may still be able to have a baby, although their fertility is diminished.
For women trying to become pregnant, ovarian insufficiency can be a devastating diagnosis. But there are fertility treatments available to help couples conceive a child even with the challenge of ovarian insufficiency.
Causes & Treatment for Ovarian Insufficiency
Ovarian insufficiency has been attributed to several factors that range from genetic mutations such as Fragile X syndrome and Turner syndrome to cancer treatments that involve radiation and chemotherapy. It can also be caused by an immune disorder (such as hypothyroidism or Addison’s disease). If a woman’s mother or sister has been diagnosed with ovarian insufficiency, she’s at heightened risk of developing the disorder as well. However, in some cases, an exact cause may never be determined.
Symptoms closely mirror those of natural menopause. In addition to infertility, a woman may experience hot flashes, vaginal dryness, night sweats, decreased libido, and pain during intercourse. To diagnose ovarian insufficiency, a doctor will order a blood test to analyze hormone levels or possible chromosome disorders. For example, women with ovarian insufficiency typically have low levels of estrogen. A pelvic ultrasound will detect any abnormalities within the ovaries and follicles.
As devastating as ovarian insufficiency can be for couples hoping to begin a family, there are treatment options available. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) — the most common treatment method — provides the estrogen that the ovaries no longer produce. In vitro fertilization (IVF) and donor egg IVF are other methods used to overcome ovarian insufficiency and help couples conceive a child.
In treating ovarian insufficiency, it’s also important to address any associated conditions. Lack of estrogen has been linked to osteoporosis and heart disease. Fortunately, HRT, along with high doses of calcium and vitamin D, helps those affected maintain bone and heart health. Hypothyroidism, which refers to an under-active thyroid gland, can be treated with medication. Although those conditions may or may not be the cause of ovarian insufficiency, each should be treated to improve a woman’s overall health.
Let Us Help You Start Your Family
At New York Reproductive Wellness, we recognize how difficult infertility can be for couples who want to start a family. Our staff employs the latest diagnostic tools to uncover the cause of your infertility so we can prescribe a treatment plan to help you become pregnant.
If you’re under age 35 and have been trying to conceive for a year — or over 35 and have been trying for 6 months — it may be time to visit a fertility specialist. Contact our office today for an appointment.