What is Premature Ovarian Insufficiency?

Menopause! It’s not the first thing that comes mind before you hit your 40s, however for some women this is a reality.

This article has been written for me by fertility nurse Kate Pleace. Kate works with me here at YFJ and has oodles of knowledge when it comes to premature ovarian insufficiency and menopause.

Here’s Kate……..

For women under the age of 40 around 1 in 100 will be diagnosed with Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI) also known as a premature menopause.   This diagnosis can be a devastating experience, some of the women I have met during my clinical work describe it as life changing, shocking, being hit by a brick wall or not feeling like real women.

For the majority of cases a diagnosis of POI is spontaneous or idiopathic, which means that there is no known cause and medics are unable to find out why a women’s ovaries have stopped functioning.  For other women it can be a result of life saving treatment such as chemotherapy.

But what does it mean to be living with the condition daily? For most women this will mean taking daily HRT or the contraceptive pill to replace the hormones the ovaries are no longer producing, this is usually in the form of patches, gels, tablets, coils or pessaries.  These hormones are important for long term health providing protection against osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.  For younger women with Primary Ovarian Insufficiency there is no risks associated with taking HRT as this is only replacing the hormones that the body needs, often women with POI they may need prior dosages of hormones than older women going through the menopause.

Some supplements can also be important such as vitamin D, magnesium, and calcium.  A healthy balanced diet with good amounts of protein, fruit and vegetables can also be beneficial and regular exercise can also help maintain a healthy weight and has benefits for mental health.  It is important that women with POI get the right care and advice to help protect their future health.

Then there is the emotional side, for women with Primary Ovarian Insufficiency this can be the hardest part of the condition, initially after diagnosis it is normal to feel numb, in shock and plunged into a different mindset.  Often emotions can be affected by changing hormones as well as living with the condition.  Whilst the symptoms of POI can often be treated, coping with the emotional reality of the condition takes time and often requires support.  For many women with Primary Ovarian Insufficiency their close friends are getting pregnant and having children and may not understand the condition, this can be quite isolating when you might be the only one in your group of friends with the condition, who do you talk to?

It is important to know that there is lots of support available, great organisations such as the Daisy Network provide great advice and support.  They say time is a great healer and perhaps going through a major life event so early on means that you can cope with anything life throws at you.  You may be more self-resilient and better able to adapt to future life changes.

You can read more about the management of POI right here –

NICE Guidelines – http://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng23/chapter/Recommendations#diagnosing-and-managing-premature-ovarian-insufficiency