In a small, but significant, number of cases of infertility, women are not ovulating regularly or at all, despite the fact that they haven’t yet reached menopause. There are several drugs which can help to stimulate ovulation in these cases. Also, the more familiar types of treatments, such as IUI (Intra-Uterine Insemination, or Artificial Insemination) and IVF (In-Vitro Fertilisation), are heavily dependent on the use of fertility drugs.
The most common drugs used to treat infertility are:
Clomiphene citrate: This triggers the brain’s pituitary gland to secrete an increased amount of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). This action helps to initiate ovulation.
Gonadotropins: Most commonly these hormones are FSH and LH taken in a daily injection to help stimulate a woman’s ovaries. There are several different commercially available brands of these gonadotropins all of which are broadly similar but with subtle chemical differences. Another version, hCG or human Chorionic Gonadatropin is given at the end of the cycle to help the eggs to mature and yet another medication is taken in the latter part of the cycle to block GnRH, or Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone, to prevent early ovulation.
All these drugs alter the natural monthly cycle and women can experience many different side effects from fertility drug. Some may notice mild side effects, while others can experience more serious problems. Some women won’t notice any changes at all. It is important to speak to your doctor and nurse about these possible side effects, to learn as much information as possible before you start any treatment.
The most common side effects include:
- Breast tenderness
- Ovarian swelling and fluid retention
Not really a side effects as much as a negative consequence of these drugs can be a multiple pregnancy (twins, triplets or more). Whilst at first glance this may not appear to be a problem, multiple pregnancies lead to a significantly higher risk in terms of difficult pregnancies and miscarriages, early delivery and babies with low birth weight, and health consequences for both mother and baby.
Fertility treatment can be an emotionally challenging process; however you should also be aware of the mental health complications that fertility drugs can cause, such as anxiety, and depression. It is important that you are well prepared for dealing with your emotions during any fertility treatment.
Lastly, prolonged use of the medicines involved in inducing ovulation can have a negative effect on the lining of the uterus. At Concept Fertility we generally recommend no more than three of any particular type of cycle without a general review.