What is primary ovarian insufficiency?

Primary ovarian insufficiency, also called premature ovarian failure and early menopause, is defined as a loss of ovarian function before age 40. With the cessation of normal ovarian function, estrogen levels diminish and eggs are not released. Infertility and an increased risk of osteoporosis is a common result. Dr. Stephanie Beall, from our SGF Columbia and Towson, MD offices, provides insight to whom early menopause impacts, the effects, and what women can do about it.

How common is premature ovarian failure?

Approximately 1-3 percent of women experience early menopause. Unfortunately, there are usually no warning signs and it can impact women at any age. It can even occur prior to the first menstrual cycle.  For most women they only become aware when they stop having regular menstrual cycles. The ultimate impact regardless of when it occurs is that she will no long be able to have a child using her own eggs.

Dr. Beall shares her experience discussing premature ovarian failure with patients, as premature ovarian failure can be devastating, especially when it is not expected, “For some women, it represents a loss of who they are and their identity as a woman—when you lose that identity there can be a lot of shame and guilt if you are not able to start a family with a husband or partner. It is incredibly difficult. Luckily, there is something women can do to be proactive.”

What can you do about early menopause?

Dr. Beall: “Be proactive. We understand that there is a genetic link, although we don’t know all the genes involved”.  With this knowledge, women can actively talk with family members to learn if they have experienced early menopause. Due to a shift in culture, more women are talking about their difficulties conceiving.”

If a family member shares that she did have menopause prior to age 51 (the average age a woman reaches menopause), Dr. Beall recommends that you test your own ovarian function.

I have early menopause in my family, how do I measure my own ovarian function?

Testing ovarian function is as simple as getting your anti-Müllerian hormone (AMH) level tested. This hormone level provides the best insight into a woman’s current ovarian reserve. Testing can be done at your OB/GYN or at Shady Grove Fertility. An AMH test paired with other initial fertility testing provides your physician with a complete picture of your overall fertility.

Dr. Beall: “My advice for women is to ask around; find out if anyone in your family has experienced menopause earlier than expected. If they have, get your ovaries tested. Your testing results will reveal a great deal of information that your physician can use to advise you regarding your next steps, which may include seeing a reproductive endocrinologist or considering egg freezing.”

To learn more about how early menopause may impact your fertility, or to schedule an appointment, please speak to one of our New Patient Liaisons at 1-877-971-7755 or click here.