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Updated: December 5, 2012 12:17 IST

When the ovaries fail

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Neetu Sharma’s world came crashing down when, after several tests, her gynaecologist declared that she would not be able to conceive even though she was relatively young; just 34. The culprit was Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) (when the ovaries stop functioning normally before the age of 40). When this happens, the ovaries don’t produce normal amounts of oestrogen or release eggs regularly, leading to infertility and childlessness.

Premature ovarian failure is sometimes mistakenly called premature menopause, but these are not the same. In the case of POF, women may have irregular/occasional periods, for years or after a pregnancy or after stopping birth control pills. When premature menopause sets in women stop having periods and cannot become pregnant.

Of late, however, incidences of premature ovarian failure are becoming more frequent. While heredity is one reason, environmental factors such as smoking, changing lifestyles and diseases like genital tuberculosis also play a role. These cause changes in the body and its functioning, which also affects pregnancy.

Fortunately, advances in medical technology do provide solutions for such problems. Human oocyte cryopreservation technology is one such remedy. In this, a woman’s eggs (oocyte) are extracted, frozen and stored. Later when she is ready to become pregnant, the eggs can be thawed, fertilized, and transferred to the uterus as embryos.


Irregular/skipped periods (amenorrhea)

Hot flashes

Night sweats

Vaginal dryness

Irritability or difficulty concentrating

Decreased sexual desire

Source: Mayo Clinic

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