woman with doctor

Primary Ovarian Insufficiency/ Premature Menopause

Do you or someone you know under the age 40 have irregular periods, hot flashes, irritability, and infertility?  It is possible that you are experiencing Primary Ovarian Insufficiency (POI).  Also called premature menopause.

When we share our stories – we help others!  So, I asked Christine Eads if she would share hers.  Christine is sassy and sharp!

When I first met Christine, she opened up about her own struggle to find hormone happiness. Doctor after doctor, and misdiagnosis after misdiagnosis, she listened to her body and didn’t give up on getting the help she deserved. Ultimately, she met a specialist who discovered that she suffered from primary ovarian insufficiency (POI) often called premature or early menopause.

Technically speaking this is when the ovaries don’t produce normal amounts of the hormone estrogen or release eggs regularly. Infertility is common, however, it’s possible a woman with this condition could get pregnant with treatment!   Do not worry, there are treatments which may include hormone therapy and supplements to help prevent osteoporosis.

This is not the same as early menopause which is when you have reached menopause before the age of 45.  Remember, you are officially in menopause when you have not had a period for 12 consecutive months.  If you have not had a period for 6 months, and then you start spotting or have a full period – you must start the clock over.  Sadly, there is no cap and gown ceremony when you graduate from perimenopause to menopause.

This brave woman was happy to take a seat in the spotlight and let me interview her. Here’s what she had to say:

For all of the women out there who may not know, what exactly is primary ovarian insufficiency (POI)?

“Well, 11 years ago when I was diagnosed with this problem it was called premature ovarian failure. Since then, they’ve changed it to premature ovarian insufficiency (POI) because “failure” sounded so final, and it’s not! POI is the loss of ovarian function at an early age. Some refer to it as early menopause or premature menopause. It can be brought on by autoimmune and genetic disorders, chemotherapy or radiation therapy, but sometimes the cause is unknown.”

How are POI symptoms similar to the symptoms of perimenopause and menopause? What’s that like?
“First, the loss of your period, which sends you into major mood swings. Night sweats, no energy, dry eyes and not being able to sleep.”

I always say to trust yourself and listen to your body. How did you know that you needed help?
“When I was 24, my period just stopped coming altogether. Over the next five years, I saw a dozen doctors who told me that I had everything from depression to a sexually transmitted disease. Some told me I was too skinny. Others told me I was too fat. Some doctors said I needed to take birth control pills and others told me to stop taking birth control pills. Of course, all these diagnoses were wrong and that just brought me back to square one. Through all of that, I also had terrible mood swings and I would wake up in pools of sweat. I was told that was a side effect of the antidepressants I was taking. Then, when I was 29, someone recommended I see Dr. Nelson at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), so I did. He diagnosed me with POF, now POI.”

What did you feel like when you found out?
“I was devastated!!  They didn’t want to give me any false hope that there were any follicles and the thought of that was crushing. I wasn’t ready to have kids at that point in my life but I had always dreamed of having a huge family with tons of children. I felt that was being taken away from me and I was really angry at the doctors who didn’t diagnose me properly. I thought if they had, I might not be in this situation.”

Well, now you’re a mom! How did that happen?
“In the protocol at NIH—everyone there is amazing, by the way!—I was given hormone replacement.  I routinely went in for blood work and in August 2001 (10 months later) they asked me to retake a test. The next day, Dr. Nelson called to tell me I was pregnant. I wasn’t trying, but what amazing news! I was obviously taken out of the protocol and none of us could believe how great this was for me. It definitely gives hope to other women with POI that the condition isn’t so final.”

You are so hilarious, open and candid. What advice can you give women to help them become more outspoken when it comes to their health?
“You have to be your own advocate. No one cares about your health more than you. Don’t blow it off and say that it’s normal or it will go away. If you don’t feel right in any way, get to a specialist and ask a million questions until you are satisfied. Don’t be embarrassed to talk to family and friends about what is happening with you. You may not know that POI, or other disorders, may run in your family and you might find strength if someone else is feeling the same way. It is worth taking the time and doing the research to feel better.”

Thanks, Christine, for sharing your story.

Remember:  Suffering in silence is OUT!  Reaching out is IN.

For more great tips on how to find a menopause specialist and deal with menopause, download my free eBook: MENOPAUSE MONDAYS  the Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving During Perimenopause and Menopause.

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Ellen Dolgen, spurred by her own experience struggling with the symptoms of menopause, is devoted to helping women everywhere. Through EllenDolgen.com and her FREE eBook, MENOPAUSE MONDAYS The Girlfriend’s Guide to Surviving and Thriving During Perimenopause and Menopause, she shares the expertise of numerous specialists to replace confusion and embarrassment with medically sound solutions, presented in an entertaining and informative way. From hot flashes, insomnia, mood swings, mental fogginess, loss of libido, heart health, and lots more in between, EllenDolgen.com provides empowerment for women to become their own best health advocates. Her motto is: Suffering in silence is OUT! Reaching out is IN!