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Medications for Infertility in Women

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The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea of what to expect from each of these medications. Only the most common side effects are included. Ask your healthcare provider if there are any precautions specific for you. Use each of these medications as recommended by your healthcare provider and according to the instructions provided with the medication. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your healthcare provider.

You may be given medications that stimulate your ovaries to produce more eggs. The likelihood of multiple births is increased with these medications

Prescription Medications

Drugs That Help to Stimulate Ovulation

  • Clomiphene citrate (Clomid, Serophene)
  • Metformin
  • Progesterone (Provera)
  • Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) (Profasi, Pregnyl, Ovidrel)
  • Human menopausal gonadotropin (hMG) (Pergonal, Humegon)
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) (Follistim, Gonal F)

Drugs That Help Modify Hormone Levels

  • Gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists (Lupron, Synarel)
  • GnRH antagonists (Antagon, Cetrotide)
  • Bromocriptine mesylate (Parlodel, Ergoset)

Prescription Medications

Common names include:

  • Clomid
  • Serophene

This drug can help when infertility is caused by ovulatory problems, such as inadequate secretion of luteinizing hormone (LH) or FSH. Clomiphene citrate causes a surge in LH and FSH release by the brain that ultimately stimulates ovulation. The drug is taken orally as a tablet, usually for five days. If ovulation does not occur, the regimen may be repeated, usually with a higher dose. Timing of the dose is important, so you’ll probably be advised to take the tablet at the same time every day. If you miss a dose, contact your healthcare provider to determine when to take the next dose. The ovary must be producing some level of estrogen if clomiphene is to work successfully.

Possible side effects include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Migraines
  • Breast discomfort
  • Vaginal dryness

This drug is sometimes used in combination with clomiphene in patients diagnosed with a cause of infertility known as polycystic ovarian syndrome.

This drug is sometimes used in combination with clomiphene to trigger a period prior to a cycle with clomiphene. Progesterone will only stimulate a period if the ovary is producing estrogen.

Common names include:

  • Profasi, Pregnyl, Ovidrel
  • Pergonal, Humegon
  • Follistim, Gonal F

Both hCG and hMG are naturally occurring hormones that work by inducing maturation of the ovarian follicle and release of a mature egg. hCG works like LH, and hMG has activities of both LH and FSH. Both drugs are provided as intramuscular injections, although more purified forms of hMG may be injected under the skin. hCG is usually provided as a single injection during a fertility treatment cycle. hMG may be given for 10 days or more. Blood levels of estrogen and other reproductive hormones may be monitored throughout treatment, and dosages of the drugs may be adjusted accordingly. FSH may also be provided directly as an injection usually for five days. Women whose infertility is related to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) may be treated with FSH for longer periods of time.

Possible side effects include:

  • Injection site pain
  • Lower abdomen tenderness (this symptom must be reported to the doctor because it may indicate hyperstimulation of the ovary and the formation of large ovarian cysts)
  • Fluid retention, breast tenderness
  • Headache
  • Emotional irritability
  • Hyperstimulation of the ovaries
  • Multiple births
Drugs That Help Correct Hormonal Imbalances

Common names include:

  • Lupron
  • Synarel

GnRH analogs are synthetic versions of naturally occurring hormones. These drugs suppress secretion of pituitary hormones, which prevents premature ovulation and helps control ovulatory cycles during fertility treatment. They may be given by injection, nasal spray, or implants.

Possible side effects include:

  • Hot flashes, night sweats, headaches
  • Emotional irritability
  • Lower abdomen tenderness
  • Bone loss with long-term use

Common names include:

  • Antagon
  • Cetrotide

Like the GnRH analogs, they also suppress release of LH and, to a lesser extent, FSH. This activity delays the LH surge and ovulation, which is useful in synchronizing ovulatory cycles during fertility treatment.

Possible side effects include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache

Common names include:

  • Parlodel
  • Ergoset

This drug is prescribed for women who have elevated levels of the pituitary hormone prolactin. Although prolactin is important during lactation, high levels can cause irregular menstrual cycles, suppress ovulation, and interfere with fertility. The drug is provided as a tablet, which is taken with food 1-3 times daily. When prolactin levels are normalized, regular periods usually begin within 6-8 weeks.

Possible side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Tingling in hands and feet

Special Considerations

Whenever you are taking a prescription medication, take the following precautions:

  • Take your medication as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
  • Do not stop taking them without talking to your doctor.
  • Do not share them.
  • Know what the results and side effects may be. Report side effects to your doctor.
  • Some drugs can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to a doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one drug. This includes over the counter medication and herb or dietary supplements.
  • Plan ahead for refills so you do not run out.

Revision Information

  • Diabetes and women. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/~/media/For%20Patients/faq142.pdf?dmc=1&ts=20121022T1341041226. Accessed October 22, 2012.

  • Fritz MC, Speroff L. Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinolgy and Infertility. Section IV: Infertility. 8th ed. New York, NY: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins; 2011.

  • Infertility. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated August 23, 2012. Accessed October 22, 2012.