Premature ovarian failure is not premature menopause

Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2000:900:393-402. doi: 10.1111/j.1749-6632.2000.tb06251.x.


Normal menopause occurs at an average age of 50 and results from ovarian follicle depletion. Normal menopause is an irreversible condition, whereas premature ovarian failure is characterized by intermittent ovarian function in half of these young women. These young women produce estrogen intermittently and sometimes even ovulate despite the presence of high gonadotropin levels. Indeed, pregnancy has occurred after a diagnosis of premature ovarian failure. On pelvic ultrasound examination, follicles were equally likely to be detected in patients more than 6 years after a diagnosis of premature ovarian failure as in patients less than 6 years after the diagnosis. Thus, the probability of detecting a follicle appears to remain stable during the normal reproductive lifespan of these young women. Indeed, pregnancy was reported in a 44-year-old woman 16 years after a diagnosis of premature ovarian failure. No treatment to restore fertility in patients with premature ovarian failure has proved to be safe and effective in prospective controlled studies. Theoretically, these unproved therapies might even prevent one of these spontaneous pregnancies from occurring.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Menopause, Premature
  • Middle Aged
  • Pregnancy
  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency / diagnosis*
  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency / etiology
  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency / therapy