What You Should Know about Fertility Drugs

Infertility is a condition that affects approximately 1.5 million women in the US. It is a painful, frustrating condition for women desperately wanting to start a family of their own. However, thanks to modern medicine that number has declined dramatically from the 2.4 million women affected by infertility in the U.S. just 30 years ago. Infertility treatment has become a very common practice over the years with several medications being released in order to increase women’s fertility to enable them to have the families of their dreams. Here are some important things you should know about fertility drugs.

Clomiphene citrate; known most commonly as Clomid and Serophene; has been on the market for over 40 years and is one of the most commonly prescribed fertility drugs on the market. It works by blocking estrogen receptors encouraging the hypothalamus and pituitary gland to release the hormones; follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH) and gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) all of which trigger and encourage ovulation. This drug is most often prescribed to women with polycystic ovaries syndrome (PCOS) or ovulatory dysfunction.

Common side effects of Clomiphene citrate include but are not limited to; nausea, dizziness, headache, abnormal vaginal bleeding, and breast tenderness. Clomid is also linked to an increase in multiple births since the drug encourages the body to ovulate leading to more eggs being released. Those who take Clomid have about an 80% chance of ovulation which greatly increases the likelihood of conception. There are also few reports of birth defects reported in conjunction with use of this medication.

Femara letrozole is another fertility drug that has appeared on the market more recently. Originally used to help treat breast cancer, this medication is used to encourage ovulation in women who cannot ovulate on their own or increase ovulation in those who are able to. Though it is also an estrogen blocker like Clomid, it works a little differently inhibiting the enzyme Aromatase which is responsible for the production of estrogen. This medication is a recent alternative that has been successful in groups of women who were not responding well to Clomid.

Femara has been studied and found to have an increased ovulation rate, birth rate, and success among obese mothers struggling with fertility compared to Clomid. However, there were more birth defects reported among mothers who used this medication compared to Clomid and a decrease in effectiveness for patients with polycystic ovaries syndrome. This medication is a new alternative that may be able to help you if Clomid is not working.

The side effects of Femara are generally mild and usually include, nausea, dizziness, and loss of appetite. These side effects generally decrease over time. As with Clomid, there is an increase likelihood of having multiples due to the way it works to increase ovulation which can lead to two or more eggs being released and fertilized in a cycle.

Bromociptine is a fertility drug that is designed to specifically treat hyperprolactinemia. Hyperprolactin is a condition where a person has too much prolactin in their blood. Prolactin is the hormone released by the pituitary gland that regulates the menstrual cycle, breast enlargement, and the production of breast milk. Having high levels of prolactin reduces estrogen which causes irregular or absent periods, as well as infertility. It can also cause women who aren’t pregnant to produce breast milk and have lower bone density. The most common causes of hyperprolactin are: a tumor on the pituitary gland, hypothyroidism (an underactive thyroid), overactive cells in the pituitary gland, damage to the chest area, and certain medications, usually those that treat high blood pressure and depression. 

Once Bromociptine has been administered, it usually take a few cycles to lower the prolactin in the body. However, once the prolactin has reached normal levels, the menstrual cycle will become regular, allowing conception to take place. Approximately 77% of women who were administered this medication conceived.

The side effects for Bromociptine are generally mild and usually include nausea, fatigue, headaches, mental fogginess and dizziness. These symptoms are likely to become milder as time progresses and your body adjusts to the medication.  

Unlike Clomid and Femara, Bromociptine does NOT increase your chances for having multiples. The medication works by returning your body’s prolactin levels to normal which increases estrogen. It does not actively work to increase the hormones that cause ovulation.

These are the most commonly prescribed fertility drugs that can be administered orally. Other fertility drugs such as hCG (Human chorionic gonadotropin), FSH, hMG (Human menopausal gonadotropin) and GnRH can also be used to treat infertility but are administered via injection. They work in much the same way that Clomid does by encouraging the body to ovulate. These medications usually must be injected for 7 to 12 days straight and may be used in conjunction with other oral infertility drugs. The side effects are generally mild including tenderness at the injection site, infection, and occasionally development of the condition ovarian hyperstimulation which can cause your ovaries to enlarge and become tender.

Work closely with your doctor in order to determine which fertility treatment will work best for you and your body. All of these medications have been thoroughly tested and are proven to increase fertility by up to 80%. For many, these medications are able to help people achieve the family of their dreams.