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Fertility Drugs

Fertility drugs are a set of pharmaceutics used to facilitate ovulation in women. They are prescribed in select situations where ovulatory failure is the cause of infertility. The main side effect is an increased chance of multiple births. Whether or not fertility drugs increase the risk of ovarian cancer is still under investigation and current study results are mixed.

The following table identifies the most commonly used fertility drugs, a description of how each drug works and information about risks and side effects which must be considered.

Fertility Drug
Function
Considerations
Clomiphene

Clomid, Serophene, Milophene
Stimulates pituitary gland to produce follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and lutenizing hormone (LH) which in turn induces ovulation.

Should not be used in patients that have fibroid tumors, ovarian cysts or liver disease.

Side effects include nausea and bloating, headaches, breast tenderness, hot flashes and insomnia. There is an increased chance of producing more than one egg and having a twin pregnancy.

Human Menopausal Gonadotropin- hMG

Pergonal, Humegon, Repronex
A combination of FSH and LH, this drug directly stimulates the ovaries to produce mature eggs.

Should not be used in women who have benign pituitary tumors or ovarian cysts. Over stimulation of the ovaries can cause ovaries to burst.

Some women complain of moodiness and increased stress. Greatly increases the chance of multiple births.

 


Follicle Stimulating Hormone - FSH

Metrodin, Follistim, Gonad F

 

Used alone, or in combination with hMG, this drug stimulates the ovaries to produce mature eggs.

This drug is often used for women who have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).

Greatly increases the chance of multiple births.

Human Chorionic Gonadotropin - hCG

Perganyl
Used for women who take FSH and need further help with release of the mature egg. Functions like LH. This drug is injected when an ultrasound shows that the mature egg is ready to be released.
Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone - GnRH

Lutrepulse, Factrel
Stimulates pituitary gland to produce follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and lutenizing hormone (LH). This induces ovulation.

This drug is administered by a pump that injects a measured dose at regular intervals. The woman wears the pump device at home and comes to the clinic to monitor for successful ovulation, which usually takes 1-2 weeks. Then the pump is removed.

Besides the inconvenience of wearing the pump device, and the slight chance of irritation or infection at the needle site, there are no other side effects. There is no increase in the chance for multiple births.

GnRH Analogs

Lupron, Synarel, Zoladex
Stimulates pituitary gland to produce follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and lutenizing hormone (LH) which in turn induces ovulation.

Used to treat irregular ovulation, or women who release eggs immaturely.

Administered by injection or nasal spray instead of using a pump delivery system.

Bromocriptine

Parlodel
High prolactin levels prevent ovulation. This drug decreases prolactin levels by suppressing the activity of the hypothalamus. Shrinks pituitary tumors.

May be inappropriate if pituitary tumors are larger than 1 cm.

Side effects include nausea, nasal congestion, headaches, or low blood pressure that results in dizziness.

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