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New Hope for Infertile Young Women

Many whose periods have stopped still have immature eggs, researchers find

FRIDAY, April 30 (HealthDay News) -- A new study contradicts the conventional wisdom about a common condition called primary ovarian insufficiency that can cause infertility in young women.

Even though the condition causes symptoms similar to those experienced by women during menopause, researchers found that females still have immature eggs in their ovaries.

The findings raise "the possibility of developing treatments for the infertility that accompanies the condition," Dr. Alan E. Guttmacher, acting director of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), said in a news release from the NIH.

An estimated 1 percent of women develop primary ovarian insufficiency, also known as premature ovarian failure, by the time they turn 40. They experience hot flashes and stop having regular menstrual periods, although hormone treatment can treat the symptoms in some cases.

Most women with the condition are infertile, although even after the diagnosis, up to 10 percent become pregnant unexpectedly.

In the new study, researchers Dr. Lawrence M. Nelson of the NICHD and his colleagues used ultrasound to assess the growth process of the women's follicles -- small sacs in the ovary that become eggs. The researchers were surprised to find that 73 percent of 97 women with primary ovarian insufficiency had ovarian follicles. In addition, they found that the follicles could produce reproductive hormones.

The findings appear online April 26 in the journal Fertility and Sterility.

More information

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development has more on premature ovarian failure.

-- Randy Dotinga

SOURCE: National Institutes of Health, press release, April 26, 2010

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