Side effects of Fertility drugs for women
When people talk about “fertility drugs” they’re often talking about ovulation-inducing medications. These medications induce your ovaries to develop and release an egg if you’re not doing that normally. For women who do ovulate normally, using medications may stimulate your ovaries to release multiple eggs — rather than the single egg that normally develops each month —which increases your chances of getting pregnant.
This is the first line of treatment for many couples. It’s the best treatment for most women who don’t ovulate regularly (or at all), and it’s often part of the treatment plan for couples with unknown causes of infertility. Since ovulation-inducing medications can be inexpensive and effective, they’re also tried for a range of fertility problems before committing to assisted reproductive technologies. However, these medications are less likely to work if you have low ovarian reserve, severe problems with your uterus or fallopian tubes, or severe problems with sperm.
There are several fertility drugs for women that can be used for ovulation induction. Some are used in tandem.
- Aromatase inhibitors
- Human chorionic gonadotropin
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Now that you know about fertility drugs in general, knowing more about specific drugs is also important. To make this section easier to read, we’ve provided a detailed list of the common fertility drugs, using their generic or chemical names, followed by their brand names. For example, clomiphene citrate, a widely prescribed fertility drug, is a generic name. It’s available under the brand names Clomid or Serophene.
Keep in mind most fertility drugs for women are actually the hormones themselves so they really don’t have bona fide generic names. Human menopausal gonadotropin (hMG) is the hormone name and that’s what’s given. The table that appears later in this website should help guide you through the alphabet soup of hormones and fertility drugs.
Listed after the generic and brand names are their routes of administration; that is, how the drugs are given. You take most of these drugs by injection. In general, the older drug formulations are given intramuscularly (IM)—by injection deep into the muscle tissue. You probably can’t give these injections to yourself, so you’ll need to enlist the help of your partner or someone else.
Many of the newer drug formulations, particularly those developed through genetic engineering, are injected subcutaneously (SC)—under the skin using a small, thin needle. These are much easier to give to yourself. Some fertility drugs are taken orally. And, occasionally, a drug may be given in a nasal spray.
Next comes a description of what doctors call the drug’s mechanism of action—in other words, how it works. We’ll then describe the drug’s uses and tell you what to expect. As we said earlier, injectable fertility drugs require careful monitoring throughout your treatment cycle. We’ve already discussed some of the tests (for example, lab assessments, ultrasound exams, physical exams, and postcoital tests) you’ll likely undergo and why. We’ll just list the tests that are likely to be performed. You can refer to the appropriate section on drug monitoring for the rationale behind these tests.
Finally, we’ll list some of the side effects and risks. (The list is not complete, but covers what appear to be the most common side effects and risks.) We’re not going to go into dosages, because that depends on your hormone levels at any particular time. The dosage will likely be changed several times during your treatment. Suffice it to say that you should always ask how much of a drug you should be taking and ask again whenever the dosage is changed.
We’re also not going to give you specifics on how long to be on any particular drug(s); that’s a determination only you and your doctor can make. We’ll just leave you with the caveat that you should not be taking any of these drugs for more than several months. Also, keep in mind that the side effects for most of these fertility drugs for women are dose-dependent. This means the more of the drug you take, the more likely and worse the side effects. As when taking any drug, if you do have serious side effects, call your doctor immediately.
Side effects of Fertility drugs for women: SPECIFIC CONDITIONS
Fertility drugs for women aren’t only used to induce ovulation. In some cases, they’re used to treat underlying problems interfering with fertility — particularly hormone problems.
For example, if your care provider discovers that you have an underactive thyroid gland (hypothyroidism) or an elevated level of prolactin (hyperprolactinemia), you’ll receive medications to treat these conditions. Getting your hormone levels under control will help you feel better if you’re experiencing symptoms due to these conditions. In addition, restoring your hormone levels to normal will help regulate your menstrual cycles and may fix your fertility problems.
Medications may also be prescribed for men with hormone problems that are contributing to infertility, such as hypogonadism. In this condition, the body doesn’t produce enough of the male sex hormone testosterone. Men may be born with the condition, due to a problem in the testicles (primary hypogonadism). Or it may develop later in life (secondary hypogonadism).
In secondary hypogonadism, the testicles are normal but function improperly due to an abnormality in the pituitary gland or hypothalamus. The abnormality may be the result of a harmless tumor on the pituitary gland or a condition called Kallmann syndrome. This type of hypogonadism can often be treated with hormone medications. When hormone levels are regulated, sperm production often resumes normally.
Side effects of Fertility drugs for women: CAN FERTILITY DRUGS CAUSE CANCER?
There’s no definitive answer to this question. Some early studies implied that fertility drugs for women were associated with an increased risk of a certain type of ovarian tumor, particularly when taken for more than 12 cycles. More recent studies have found no significant association between fertility drugs and ovarian cancer — a type of cancer that begins in the ovaries and often goes undetected until it has spread within the pelvis and abdomen and can be difficult to treat.
Having infertility problems is an independent risk factor for ovarian cancer. Current research provides no evidence that taking fertility drugs escalates this risk. In addition, it’s now clear that there’s no good reason to take fertility drugs for more than 12 cycles. Cancer risks aside, fertility drugs aren’t likely to work on the 10th or 11th cycle if they didn’t work by the third or fourth cycle. What about breast cancer? The available evidence doesn’t support any link between fertility drugs and breast cancer risk.
Optional Video : The Truth About Fertility Drugs — The Doctors