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What is premature ovarian failure (POF)?
Health care providers use the term premature ovarian failure to describe a stop in normal
functioning of the ovaries in a woman under the age of 40. Many women naturally
experience a decline in fertility at age 40; this age may also mark the
beginning of irregularities in their
menstrual cycles that
signal the onset of menopause. For women with
premature ovarian failure, the fertility decline and menstrual
irregularities occur before age 40, sometimes even in the teens. Some health
care providers also use the term primary ovarian insufficiency to describe this
In the past, health care providers called this condition premature menopause,
but this term is not an accurate description of what happens in a woman with
premature ovarian failure. A woman who has gone through
natural menopause will rarely ever have
another period; a woman with premature ovarian failure is much more likely to have periods, even
though they might not come regularly. There is virtually no chance for a woman
who has gone through menopause naturally to get pregnant; in some cases, a woman
with premature ovarian failure can still get pregnant.