Fertility drugs can help with various problems, increasing the chances of conceiving and carrying a child to term. Because these drugs are used to treat specific issues, they should only be taken on the advice of a doctor.
Taking fertility drugs without a diagnosis does not guarantee that you will become pregnant.
12 percent of American women between the ages of 15 and 44 have difficulty conceiving, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Infertility can be caused by both male and female issues. If a woman is unable to conceive or continues to have miscarriages after attempting to conceive for 12 months or longer, most doctors advise seeking treatment.
Many doctors advise women over 35 to seek treatment after 6 months of trying to conceive.
Before attempting to conceive, women who do not have regular periods or who have medical conditions that could affect pregnancy should consult a doctor.
Types of Fertility Drugs For Women
Fertility drugs are any medication that affects ovulation in some way. Infertility medications are the mainstay of care for women with ovulation issues who are unable to conceive naturally.
Fertility drugs, like the natural hormones FSH and LH, are used to stimulate ovulation in order to conceive. Also, in women who ovulate, they’re used in an attempt to elicit a better egg or more eggs.
The best fertility drugs for women include:
- Clomiphene Citrate: When this drug is taken orally, the pituitary gland produces more FSH and LH, stimulating the growth of the ovarian follicle containing an egg. Women under the age of 39 who do not have polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) are typically candidates for this treatment.
- Gonadotropins: This is an injectable fertility drug for women. Using these injections, the ovary is stimulated to produce multiple eggs. Menopur, a human menopausal gonadotropin medication, and FSH are examples of gonadotropin medications (Gonal-F, Follistim AQ, Bravelle). When the eggs are ready to be released, another gonadotropin called human chorionic gonadotropin (Ovidrel, Pregnyl) is administered to speed up the maturation process. Gonadotropin use has been linked to an increased risk of multiple pregnancies and premature births.
- Metformin: It is used to treat infertility in women who have been diagnosed with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). Insulin resistance can be improved by taking Metformin (Fortamet). This increases the chance of ovulation.
- Letrozole: A class of drugs called aromatase inhibitors, Letrozole (Femara) works in a similar way to clomiphene. If you’re a woman under the age of 39 and have PCOS, letrozole is typically prescribed.
- Bromocriptine: Dopamine agonist bromocriptine may be used to treat ovulation problems caused by excessive pituitary prolactin production (hyperprolactinemia).
How Successful Are Fertility Drugs?
Depending on your age and what’s causing your ovulation issues, oral medications can have varying degrees of success. Typically, oral drugs increase the odds of conception by 10% in patients with less than 1% chance of conceiving (and the percentage drops after three attempts at conception.) Adding artificial insemination to the mix increases the chance of conception to 20%.
Starting with a thorough evaluation of your fertility issues, under the watchful eye of a fertility specialist, is the best way to increase your chances of conceiving and reduce the risks associated with treatment.
It’s critical to have a fertility specialist evaluate and monitor you. It’s more likely that fertility treatment will be safe and effective if you get an accurate diagnosis, as well as treat any underlying factors.
Fertility Drugs: Risks and Complications
Using fertility drugs has some drawbacks, including:
- Multiple Pregnancy: This is a common occurrence. Oral medications have a low (less than 10%) risk of multiples and mostly a risk of twins. Injectable medications can increase your chances by up to 30%. Injectable fertility drugs also pose a significant risk of triplets or more. Premature labor, low birth weight, and later developmental problems are all more likely the more fetuses you’re carrying. Adjusting medications can sometimes reduce the risk of multiples if too many follicles develop.
- Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome: This is a condition in which the ovaries are overstimulated (OHSS). OHSS is a rare side effect of injecting fertility drugs to induce ovulation. The signs and symptoms of swollen and painful ovaries, as well as mild abdominal pain, bloating, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, usually go away without treatment. A more severe form of OHSS can develop, resulting in rapid weight gain, enlarged painful ovaries, abdominal fluid, and shortness of breath.
- Ovarian tumors: The majority of studies of women who have used fertility drugs have found that there are few, if any, long-term risks. However, a few studies suggest that women who take fertility drugs for 12 months or longer without conceiving are more likely to develop borderline ovarian tumors later in life. Ovarian tumors are more common in women who have never had children, so the cause could be the underlying problem rather than the treatment. Reevaluating medication use every few months and focusing on the treatments that have the most success appear to be appropriate, given that success rates are typically higher in the first few treatment cycles.
See also Female Infertility and Steroid Use
What To Expect
The doctor must first diagnose the problem with blood tests, imaging tests of the uterus and fallopian tubes, and ovulation tests before prescribing fertility drugs.
They may also request that a woman keep track of her menstrual cycles and take her basal body temperature every morning.
If the diagnosis isn’t one that can be treated with medication, the doctor may suggest IUI or IVF.
Because fertility drugs must be taken on specific days of the cycle, a woman may have to wait a few months before starting treatment.
If the first treatment fails, a doctor may suggest additional testing, a different treatment cycle, or a different treatment altogether.
Before Taking Fertility Drugs
Consult your doctor if you’re having trouble conceiving. They can discuss all of your treatment options with you, including fertility drugs. Consult your doctor about this list of medications and make sure to ask any questions you may have. Your inquiries may include the following:
- What is the cause of my infertility or that of my partner?
- Is it possible for me or my partner to be treated with fertility drugs?
- Is treatment with fertility drugs covered by my insurance?
- Is there anything else I or my partner could try that isn’t a drug?
The more you know about the various treatment options available to you, the more confident you can be in your ability to make an informed decision regarding your own fertility treatment.
Things You Can Do To Support Fertility Treatment
Infertility can be both physically and emotionally draining. Consider the following strategies to cope with the ups and downs of infertility testing and treatment:
Learn everything you can. To assist you and your partner in preparing for your therapy, ask your doctor to explain the steps. Understanding the procedure may help you feel less anxious.
Seek assistance. Although infertility is a highly personal issue, seek support from your partner, close family and friends, or a professional. Many online support groups allow you to talk about infertility issues without having to reveal your identity.
Exercise and eat a well-balanced diet are essential. Maintaining a moderate exercise routine and eating a healthy diet can help you maintain a positive attitude and keep you focused on living your life despite your fertility issues.
Consider other possibilities. Early on in the infertility treatment process, consider alternatives such as adoption, donor sperm or eggs, or even having no children. This can help with anxiety during treatments and disappointment if you don’t get pregnant.
Infertility is an emotionally and physically draining experience. Fertility treatments can be very expensive, and if they don’t work, they can leave you and your partner with feelings of disappointment and despair. However, these treatments can also give you and your partner the chance to have a family.
Infertility is a very personal issue, and a lot of factors can contribute to a couple’s inability to have children.
The road to parenthood can be long and hard. Fertility drugs can be a critical part of that road.
Fertility drugs are one of the most commonly used treatments for infertility. They’re safe and effective when used properly.
However, they’re not for everyone. If you’re experiencing severe symptoms of endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease, you may need to see a specialist before starting treatment. If you’ve had a hysterectomy or ovariectomy, you may be at increased risk of developing endometriosis, and you may need to take extra precautions when taking fertility drugs.
See also Infertility: Treatment and Causes