Navigating your way through the top fertility medications can be intimidating, but your doctor should work closely with you to develop the best plan based on your medical history and specific fertility problems.
Top Fertility Medications
Some of the most prescribed fertility medications include:
Also called clomiphine citrate, Clomid is usually the first thing doctors will prescribe to help a woman conceive, particularly when a lack of regular ovulation seems to be the cause of infertility. Clomid works by lowering the amount of estrogen receptors. This makes the pituitary gland overcompensate for the lower estrogen levels by releasing more estrogen-based hormones.
Clomid is available in pill form and is taken once a day, usually for five days beginning on either day three or five of a woman's cycle. It is much less expensive and has fewer side effects than many other top fertility medications, but some women do experience bloating and hot flashes when taking Clomid. This drug is typically used for four to six cycles combined with either well-timed intercourse or intrauterine insemination (IUI). If these cycles fail, doctors will recommend that a woman start using fertility shots, possibly combined with in vitro fertilization (IVF).
This injectible medication works by stopping a woman's natural development of ovulation. By shutting the natural cycle down, doctors can then use other medications to take over the process and manipulate the hormones as needed. This is taken through a subcutaneous injection (a small needle that places medication under the skin) for several days with the goal of producing two or more follicles instead of the one follicle produced naturally. Common side effects include constipation, hot flashes, and nausea.
Follicle stimulating hormones (FSH)
Another injectible, FSH causes the ovaries to produce follicles. In most cases, doses will be given at a level to produce multiple follicles, especially if IVF is being performed. The development of follicles will be closely-monitored and the dose adjusted based on the woman's response. FSHs include Gonal F, Follistim, and HMG. There is a long list of side effects, but some of the most common include breast tenderness, headaches, and upset stomach. Your doctor should go over side effects specific to your medication and dose.
Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG)
During IUI and IVF, a single injection of HCG is often used to cause the release of the mature eggs. This shot is given around 24-36 hours prior to treatment depending on which procedure is being performed. HCG is also known as the pregnancy hormone and is detected in home pregnancy tests, so taking a test too soon after the HCG shot can produce a false positive. Depending of the dose and your fertility clinic's preference, you may be told to take the HCG as either an intramuscular or subcutaneous injection.
This supplement is most often used following IUI or IVF, but it can also be prescribed to women who are already pregnant. A woman's body naturally makes progesterone during her cycle, which thickens the uterine lining and makes it more hospitable for an embryo to implant. Some women may not produce enough of this naturally and need the supplement to help. Many fertility clinics prescribe this regardless of a woman's own levels to increase the thickness of the lining and increase the chances of implantation. Since there are very few side effects, most fertility clinics believe it is a worthwhile option for increasing a woman's chance of conceiving.
Progesterone can be used three different ways: as an oral pill, a vaginal suppository, or an intramuscular injection. Many fertility clinics prefer to prescribe the oil-based injection. Aside from the pain at the injection site, there are only very few side effects associate with the shot, compared to the pill, which can cause extreme tiredness and moodiness.
Medications for Male Infertility
Although the top fertility medications are usually for women, men may also be prescribed drugs to help them develop a higher sperm count. Both HMG and Clomid seem to have positive results for men, but they are still considered experimental and are not FDA-approved to treat fertility problems in men.