Premature ovarian failure

Hum Reprod Update. 2005 Jul-Aug;11(4):391-410. doi: 10.1093/humupd/dmi012. Epub 2005 May 26.


Premature ovarian failure (POF) causing hypergonadotrophic hypogonadism occurs in 1% of women. In majority of cases the underlying cause is not identified. The known causes include: (a) Genetic aberrations, which could involve the X chromosome or autosomes. A large number of genes have been screened as candidates for causing POF; however, few clear causal mutations have been identified. (b) Autoimmune ovarian damage, as suggested by the observed association of POF with other autoimmune disorders. Anti-ovarian antibodies are reported in POF by several studies, but their specificity and pathogenic role are questionable. (c) Iatrogenic following surgical, radiotherapeutic or chemotherapeutic interventions as in malignancies. (d) Environmental factors like viral infections and toxins for whom no clear mechanism is known. The diagnosis is based on finding of amenorrhoea before age 40 associated with FSH levels in the menopausal range. Screening for associated autoimmune disorders and karyotyping, particularly in early onset disease, constitute part of the diagnostic work-up. There is no role of ovarian biopsy or ultrasound in making the diagnosis. Management essentially involves hormone replacement and infertility treatment, the only proven means for the latter being assisted conception with donated oocytes. Embryo cryopreservation, ovarian tissue cryopreservation and oocyte cryopreservation hold promise in cases where ovarian failure is foreseeable as in women undergoing cancer treatments.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infertility, Female / diagnosis
  • Infertility, Female / physiopathology*
  • Infertility, Female / therapy
  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency / diagnosis
  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency / physiopathology*
  • Primary Ovarian Insufficiency / therapy