Fertility Going Up in Smoke

Premature ovarian failure may be related to smoking

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Maintaining fertility while pursuing a career remains a primary goal for career women. "I'll just have a family later", is often the plan. An upswing in premature ovarian failure (POF) makes that strategy stand on shaky ground.

A study which followed about 5,000 women, all of whom were born in Britain during one week in 1958, indicates that POF may be associated with smoking and a lower socioeconomic class. Those with POF also reported poorer quality of life.

"Smoking may be associated with early onset of menopause."

POF is characterized by amenorrhea, infertility and sex steroid deficiency, all of which lead to menopausal symptoms in women under 40 years of age. Twenty percent of the women in the study who had POF suffered it as a result of early ovary removal, hysterectomy or after chemotherapy. 

Rumana Islam, M.D., from Imperial College, London, U.K. reports that POF, along with causing infertility, increases a woman's morbidity, mortality and lowers her quality of life.

The average age women reach menopause remains constant across different ethnic groups in most Western nations. Based on preliminary data from the study, one can only speculate as to the exact reason that socioeconomic factors influence POF. It could be the quality of their environment, health care, or personal care.

Dr. Islam suggests that healthcare providers should be early more aware of the possibility of POF so patients can seek a specialist and a psychologist for personal care early in diagnosis. Additionally, Dr. Islam suggests addressing the significant effect POF is having on lower socioeconomic populations.

This study included 4968 women, of whom seven percent had either spontaneously or medically induced POF. Smoking was prevalent in the subset of women who with POF. The women with POF were also predominantly from a lower social class.

The participants also took the SF-36 health survey, a questionaire that creates a profile of a patient's physical and psychological health in eight areas. Women with POF were more than twice as likely to report a poorer quality of life.

This study was presented at the European Society for Human Reproduction and Embryology in July 2011.

Study results not yet published in peer-reviewed journals are considered preliminary.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
July 6, 2011
Last Updated:
July 25, 2011