Premature Ovarian Failure (POF) - Becoming Pregnant

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Does having premature ovarian failure mean that I'll be infertile or unable to have children?

If you have premature ovarian failure, it will likely be very difficult for you to become pregnant because your ovaries aren't working correctly. At this time, there is no proven medical treatment that improves a woman's ability to have a baby naturally if she has premature ovarian failure.

There is a chance that you will become pregnant without fertility treatment. Between 5 percent and 10 percent of women with premature ovarian failure do become pregnant, even though they have not had fertility treatment. Sometimes pregnancy can occur decades after the initial diagnosis. Researchers cannot explain why some women with premature ovarian failure get pregnant, while others do not.

Because pregnancy is still possible for women who have premature ovarian failure, those who do not want to become pregnant should take steps to prevent pregnancy. In some women with premature ovarian failure, oral contraception may not be as effective for pregnancy prevention as it is in women who don't have premature ovarian failure. In some cases, using a "barrier" method of contraception, such as a diaphragm or a condom, may be a better option for women with premature ovarian failure who don't want to become pregnant. Discuss your contraception needs with your health care provider, if you have premature ovarian failure and don't want to become pregnant.

If you have premature ovarian failure and want to become pregnant, you and your family have some options, explained below. You should also know, however, that some medical therapies for infertility have been proven ineffective, through randomized clinical trials. These therapies include high-dose estrogen therapy, gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist therapy, corticosteroid therapy, high-dose GnRH therapy, and treatment with Danocrine. Health care providers recommend avoiding unproven fertility treatments because such methods may actually reduce your chances of getting pregnant naturally.

A special note about infertility associated with premature ovarian failure

Many women involved in premature ovarian failure support groups reported that, when they were diagnosed with premature ovarian failure, they felt a sense of loss or grief, not unlike the sadness associated with the death of a loved one. Others reported that they felt guilty about not trying to have children earlier in their lives. They noted that the diagnosis also affected their partners, spouses, and families. For women with premature ovarian failure and their families, then, emotional support may be as important as medical treatment for dealing with premature ovarian failure.

Health care providers who care for women with premature ovarian failure often have to reassure their patients that these emotional responses are perfectly natural reactions to the news of premature ovarian failure. Some health care providers suggest taking time to deal with the diagnosis and the emotions that surround it, before making any decisions about having a family.

Many providers recommend that women with premature ovarian failure and their families work with a "professional listener" to help deal with the powerful and sometimes painful emotions associated with this diagnosis. A social worker, a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or another mental health professional can work with a woman individually, together with a spouse, partner, or a family member, or in some combination of these arrangements.

Many women in support group settings reported that talking to other women who had premature ovarian failure was helpful in coming to terms with their diagnosis. Many hospitals and health clinics offer support groups for women and families affected by premature ovarian failure.

What are my options for having a child?

Families affected by premature ovarian failure do have options for having a child. As mentioned earlier, avoid unproven fertility treatments and treatments that have been proven ineffective because such methods may actually reduce your chances of getting pregnant naturally.

Adopting a child is one option for starting a family if you have premature ovarian failure. Adoption can be one of the most rewarding experiences of a lifetime; but the process is not without risks. Many health care providers recommend that families considering adoption learn about the process, its benefits and risks, and its legal aspects, in addition to the possible emotional effects, before making a decision.

A certain type of assisted reproductive technology (ART), known as egg donation, may also be an option for having a child. In premature ovarian failure, the problem is in producing healthy eggs; the condition does not affect a woman's uterus, which means she may be able to carry a child. Egg donation makes it possible to combine donor eggs and sperm in a laboratory, and then place the resulting embryos into the uterus of a woman who has premature ovarian failure.

All forms of ART are complex, and each carries its own benefits and risks, some of them serious. Because few insurance companies currently provide coverage for this procedure, families may have to cover the entire cost of the process. And, many families have to try ART several times before it is successful. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides statistics on success rates of ART procedures based on different factors.

If you and your family are considering ART, talking with a health care provider and/or a fertility specialist about the risks and benefits may help you make your final decision.

In addition, researchers are actively working to develop methods that improve fertility in women with premature ovarian failure and other conditions. As such methods and treatments improve, women with premature ovarian failure and their families may have more options for having children naturally.

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

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