Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POF, Premature Ovarian Failure, POI)

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What is primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)?

Health care providers use the term POI when a woman's ovaries stop working normally before she is 40 years of age.1,2

Many women naturally experience reduced fertility when they are around 40 years old. This age may mark the start of irregular menstrual periods that signal the onset of menopause. For women with POI, irregular periods and reduced fertility occur before the age of 40, sometimes as early as the teenage years.3,4

In the past, POI used to be called "premature menopause" or "premature ovarian failure," but those terms do not accurately describe what happens in a woman with POI. A woman who has gone through menopause will never have another normal period and cannot get pregnant. A woman with POI may still have periods, even though they might not come regularly, and she may still get pregnant.2,4

What are the symptoms of primary ovarian insufficiency?

The first sign of POI is usually menstrual irregularities or missed periods,2 which is sometimes called amenorrhea (pronounced ey-men-uh-REE-uh or uh-men-uh-REE-uh).

In addition, some women with POI have symptoms similar to those experienced by women who are going through natural menopause, including:

For many women with POI, trouble getting pregnant or infertility is the first symptom they experience and is what leads them to visit their health care provider. This is sometimes called "occult" (hidden) or early POI.6

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