Many doctors prescribe fertility drugs to women who have difficulty getting pregnant. Depending on your specific fertility problem, fertility drugs may be just what you need to overcome challenges and help you get pregnant.
How do fertility drugs for women work?
There are many different types of fertility drugs for women. Some of the most common fertility drugs for women work by stimulating your ovaries to produce multiple eggs, helping you conceive. Other drugs may help to prevent premature ovulation during assisted reproductive technology (ART) procedures.
Your doctor may prescribe fertility drugs to boost the release of more than one egg per cycle. This process, called controlled ovarian hyperstimulation (super ovulation) is often used in conjunction with artificial insemination or in vitro fertilization (IVF). With the help of the latest fertility medications, you may produce one or more eggs with the hope of at least one of the eggs getting fertilized.
When are fertility drugs for women prescribed?
Fertility drugs may help you if you have one of the following health conditions.
- Ovulation problems
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Thyroid disorders
- Eating disorders
- Weight problems (being either overweight or underweight or following an extreme exercise regimen)
- Excess prolactin or a problem with your LH and FSH levels
Many women require several attempts with various fertility drugs before pregnancy occurs.
Types of ovarian stimulation fertility drugs
Clomiphene citrate (Clomid, Serophene) is the most commonly-prescribed fertility drug for women. Doctors prescribe this drug for women who ovulate irregularly or not at all. Clomidcauses the pituitary gland to secrete more follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which starts the development of ovarian follicles containing eggs. If this drug works, ovulation occurs and your ovary will release eggs. Clomiphene typically induces ovulation in about 80 percent of women and a little less than 50 percent of women become pregnant within six cycles.
Human menopausal gonadotropins may be prescribed if clomiphene does not work, if you have issues with your FSH and LH levels or if you are undergoing IVF or IUI.
Follicle stimulating hormone or FSH (Follistim, Bravelle, Gonal-F) is another commonly-prescribed fertility drug for women. Given by injection, FSH works by stimulating the ovaries to produce more follicles and thereby, more eggs.
Human chorionic gonadatropin or hCG (Profasi, Pregnyl) helps the maturation of the follicles and triggers the release of the eggs. Doctors prescribe this drug to trigger ovulation. Ovulation usually occurs about 36 to 48 hours after hCG is administered.
Other fertility drugs for women
Your doctor may prescribe other drugs, such as Bromocriptine (Parlodel) and Cabergoline (Dostinex). These are used if your ovulation problems are the result of high prolactin levels. They reduce the amount of prolactin produced by the pituitary, thereby inducing ovulation.
Gonadatropin releasing hormone or GnRH (Factrel, Lutrepulse) is a naturally-occurring hormone in your body that is released into the bloodstream in a rhythmic manner. It stimulates the pituitary gland to produce FSH and LH. A special pump is worn with GnRH, which administers the hormone to your bloodstream via a small needle in your body every 60 to 90 seconds.
Fertility drugs and IVF
If you are going through IVF, your doctor may prescribe GnRH analogs in conjunction with other fertility drugs to prevent spontaneous ovulation. GnRH analogs work by stopping the production of FSH and LH, thereby preventing ovulation and reducing estrogen levels.
Specific GnRH agonists (Lupron, Synarel) work by providing a constant flow of GnRH. These drugs cause an initial stimulation of production of FSH and LH and then the production is halted.
GnRH antagonists (Cetrotide) work the same way, except they do not cause the initial stimulation of FSH and LH.
Speak with your doctor
Ideally this information about fertility drugs for women gives you an overview of the options available. But the best way to learn more about fertility drugs is to visit with a fertility specialist. Your doctor will create a personal treatment plan for you to address your specific infertility challenges. The good news is that most ovulation problems are treatable using fertility drugs or other high-tech procedures.
- RESOLVE: Fertility Medications
- American Pregnancy Association: Infertility Medications
- American Society for Reproductive Medicine: Medications for Inducing Ovulation: A Guide for Patients