What are fertility drugs for women? These are drugs and injections that can help promote ovulation, bringing your body one step closer to your baby-making aspirations if you’re having fertility troubles owing to ovulation disorders, fertility drugs for women can be of great help.
Having difficulty conceiving? Ovulation problems affect about a quarter of all women with reproductive problems, and fertility drugs for women may be the answer for individuals who are trying to conceive, especially if they are under 35 years old and have been trying for more than a year.
Fertility drugs for women function like two natural hormones in your body, follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), to stimulate ovulation (when the ovaries make and release an egg) (LH). Fertility drugs for women or hormone shots may be the next stage in your conception journey if you need help creating healthier eggs or more of them.
However, if you’re wondering if fertility pills really work—or how long it takes for fertility medicines to function—science is on your side. Several oral treatments and hormone injections that your doctor may offer have high success rates and just minor, short-term negative effects.
If you’re ready to start thinking about fertility pills to kickstart your ovulation and get started on your pregnancy journey, here’s a rundown of the many pharmaceuticals that could be part of your therapy.
Fertility drugs for women: Clomid
The drug clomiphene citrate is marketed under the brand name Clomid. This oral pill causes your ovaries to release an egg (or eggs), which might help you correct irregular ovulation or induce ovulation if you aren’t ovulating at all.
How does Clomid work?
When you take Clomid, your body thinks your estrogen levels are low, so it kicks into high gear to make more FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone), which leads to an increase in LH (luteinizing hormone). Both hormones encourage the development and maturation of follicles in your ovaries.
The maturity of the follicles and the eggs within them allows your body to create more estrogen, which leads to the formation of higher-quality cervical mucus in some women. Better-quality mucus provides sperm with a more fertile environment, allowing them to reach the destination egg faster. On the other hand, Clomid causes some women’s cervical mucus to become dry and sticky.
More progesterone is produced as a result of the rise in mature eggs, which helps to build a robust uterine lining for the fertilized egg to burrow into.
On days two, three, four, or five of their cycle, most women begin with 50 mg of Clomid every day for five days.
If necessary, the dose can be increased by 50 mg per month (depending on your doctor’s protocol) to 150 mg, 200 mg, or even 250 mg. Your doctor will assess your ovulation progress with blood tests and ultrasounds, and you’ll ideally get pregnant the old-fashioned way through intercourse or through intrauterine insemination (IUI).
If you haven’t gotten pregnant after 6 months on Clomid, you’ll probably need hormone shots or in vitro fertilization (IVF).
What are the potential side effects of Clomid?
Bloating, nausea, headaches, hot flashes, breast soreness, mood swings, vaginal dryness, and, in rare circumstances, ovarian cysts are all side effects of Clomid. Thankfully, these side effects are only brief.
It is recommended that you discontinue using Clomid if you encounter eyesight issues while on it.
How successful is Clomid?
Clomid’s success rates are encouraging. If ovulation failure is the primary issue, over 80% of healthy women will ovulate, and 30% will become pregnant within three months of treatment.
Clomid also increases the chances of more than one egg being released, resulting in a 5 to 8% probability of having twins (the natural rate of twins is around 1%).
How much does fertility treatment with Clomid cost?
At least in comparison to other infertility therapies, Clomid is a relatively inexpensive treatment for infertility. However, if you don’t have insurance, the pills might cost you around $100 a month.
Other medical expenditures (for bloodwork, monitoring, and ultrasounds) will be factored into the total price per cycle; the therapy might cost anywhere from $500 to $2,000 per month, depending on your doctor and region.
Some insurance plans cover all components of infertility treatment (including the cost of medicine, monitoring, and bloodwork), while others do not. You should contact your insurance company to see if Clomid is covered under your policy.
Fertility drugs for women: Femara
Letrozole is a type of medicine known as an aromatase inhibitor, and Femara is the commercial name for it. This oral pill causes your ovaries to release an egg (or eggs), which might help you correct irregular ovulation or induce ovulation if you aren’t ovulating at all.
How does Femara work?
Femara works similarly to Clomid in that it suppresses estrogen, causing a rise in FSH production, which in turn increases the maturation of ovarian follicles and causes ovulation.
On days five through nine of your cycle, you’ll take 2.5 mg of Femara each day (though some fertility doctors may prescribe a larger amount, such as 5 mg or 7.5 mg per day).
Femara may be more effective than Clomid for women who haven’t had experience with ovulation, especially if they have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
Many doctors prefer Femara over Clomid since it has fewer adverse effects and a decreased risk of multiple pregnancy.
What are the potential side effects of Femara?
Femara causes minor dizziness and exhaustion in some women, but compared to Clomid, it has fewer adverse effects, such as hot flashes.
How successful is Femara?
According to studies, Femara has a better success rate than Clomid for women with PCOS. According to one study, 19.1 percent of women with PCOS who took Clomid became pregnant after five cycles, while 27.5 percent of women with PCOS who took Femara got pregnant after five cycles.
How much does fertility treatment with Femara cost?
Femara is equivalent to Clomid in terms of cost per cycle, with a month’s supply costing roughly $120. Similarly, as an infertility treatment, Femara may or may not be covered by your insurance.
Your best bet is to call your insurance company to see what is and isn’t covered.
Fertility drugs for women: Hormone shots (gonadotropins)
If you’re not conceiving with IUI but aren’t responding to oral fertility drugs like Clomid or Femara, your doctor may opt to boost your fertility game with hormone shots (called gonadotropins) that you’ll inject at home.
Low doses will be given, with the dose gradually rising every four to seven days until the ovaries respond, with the goal of only generating one to two mature eggs at a time.
Hormone shots, on the other hand, can result in the creation of too many eggs, increasing the risk of “high-order multiples” (triplets or more). As a result, many practitioners will suggest IVF instead.
If you’re doing IVF, hormone shots will still be the initial step. You’ll aim for 10 to 15 eggs every egg-retrieval cycle with IVF, which means you’ll need more hormone shots (but not too high).
How do hormone shots work?
Hormone shots work in the same way as oral drugs, but in larger doses.
If you’re taking hormone shots, what’s in store for you? Every woman’s shot cocktail will be different, depending on her situation, her doctor’s recommendations, and how her body reacts to hormones.
You could be given just one of these hormones, two of these doses, or perhaps all of them. It can take a few cycles (and a few tweaks) to find your ideal fertility medication.
Remember that every woman’s reproductive demands are unique, and thus no two fertility treatment programs will be identical.
Hormone shots that you may be prescribed include:
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH shots, such as Follistim and Gonal-f, are subcutaneous (under the skin) shots that encourage the growth and maturation of your eggs in the same way as your natural FSH does. FSH injections are often given on days two to four of your cycle. Once or twice a day, you’ll need to inject the shot.
- human gonadotropin during menopause (hMG). Menopur is the brand name for this hormone. FSH and LH, hormones that stimulate the growth of follicles and the maturation of eggs, are included in these subcutaneous doses. Starting on day two to four of your cycle, you’ll inject yourself with hMG once or twice a day for roughly seven to twelve days.
- Human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) is a hormone produced by the human ovary (hCG). These injections (brand names Ovidrel, Novarel, and Pregnyl) are used in conjunction with FSH and hMG injections (and sometimes Clomid) to help trigger ovulation. This injection, often called the “trigger shot,” is given when one or more follicles are on the verge of releasing an egg. The injection simulates your natural LH surge, allowing the follicle (s) to burst and release the egg (s). After the injection, ovulation normally occurs 36 to 40 hours later.
- Agonist: Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) agonist. FSH or hMG shots can sometimes function too successfully, causing eggs to be released before they are fully mature. By inhibiting the LH surge that induces ovulation, GnRH agonists (such as Zoladex or Lupron) can prevent immature eggs from being discharged prematurely. Using this hormone allows for the development of more high-quality eggs. This shot is only given during an IVF cycle, and it is given subcutaneously before the FSH and hMG doses are given.
- Antagonist of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).Ganirelix and Cetrotide are two brand names for this hormone injection. GnRH antagonists, which are only used in IVF cycles, block an early LH surge, ensuring that the eggs are released only when they are mature. GnRH antagonists are started at least five to seven days after initiating FSH and hMG shots because they work significantly faster than GnRH agonists. These subcutaneous doses could be used to avoid ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome in women who aren’t responding well to FSH and hMG, or in women who are reacting too well.
- Progesterone. The hormone progesterone isn’t a fertility medicine like the others, but it can help keep a newly conceived fetus going and prevent miscarriage. In an IVF cycle, when GnRH agonists and antagonists block the ovaries from producing progesterone, this injection is very critical. Supplemental progesterone takes over the baby-sustaining task in IVF pregnancies until the placenta is ready to take over at around two months.
What are the potential side effects of hormone shots?
Although not all women who receive hormone shots experience adverse effects, those who do may experience breast discomfort, mood fluctuations, headaches, abdominal pain, and nausea.
These shots may cause ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome in rare situations. Most women who take hormone shots experience an increase in cervical mucus.
How successful are hormone shots?
When looking at the success rates of these hormone drugs, many factors come into play, such as the woman’s age, BMI, and the reason for her reproductive problems, among others.
According to some estimates, the chances of a successful pregnancy and birth for a woman under the age of 35 after taking fertility injections with IUI are 5 to 15% per cycle, and about 50% per cycle with IVF.
How much does fertility treatment with hormone shots cost?
Hormone shots for fertility aren’t cheap, and your insurance may or may not cover them.
The cost of your IVF cycle will vary depending on how many and what types of shots you require, but estimates for a full cycle range from $30,000 to $50,000. (which includes the treatment, the drugs, and additional costs such as monitoring and bloodwork).
Fertility drugs for women: Bromocriptine
This medicine, marketed under the brand name Parlodel, is used to treat hyperprolactinemia, a condition in which your blood contains too much prolactin.
How does bromocriptine work?
This medicine targets the pituitary gland and acts to prevent excess prolactin and lessen its production by functioning like the neurotransmitter dopamine, which is a natural molecule in the brain. It can also help with nipple discharge and an absence of menstrual cycles.
This drug is available as an oral tablet to be taken daily with food or as a capsule to be put into the vaginal canal. Prolactin levels should return to normal after a few months on bromocriptine, and ovulation can resume.
What are the potential side effects of bromocriptine?
Dizziness, sleepiness, headache, sleeplessness, dry mouth, stuffy nose, stomach pain, loss of appetite, constipation, and diarrhea are all possible adverse effects of bromocriptine.
How successful is bromocriptine?
This fertility medicine has a high success rate among women with high prolactin levels: According to one study, bromocriptine normalizes prolactin levels in blood serum for 80 percent of women, with a subsequent pregnancy rate of 60 to 80 percent if no other reproductive difficulties exist.
How much does fertility treatment with bromocriptine cost?
This drug may be reimbursed by insurance and has a wide price range, although it typically costs around $175 for 30 pills or capsules (but it can cost as little as $120 for a generic version and as much as $220 for a brand-name version).
Fertility drugs for women: Cabergoline
Cabergoline, like bromocriptine, is a dopamine receptor agonist (a medication that activates specific brain receptors) used to treat hyperprolactinemia.
How does cabergoline work?
Cabergoline is a tablet that is taken orally a couple of times a week to reduce too-high levels of prolactin in the body.
This medicine is newer to the market than bromocriptine, but it works just as well and may be administered if bromocriptine does not work for you or if you encounter side effects while taking it.
What are the potential side effects of cabergoline?
While using cabergoline, you may experience nausea, vomiting, heartburn, constipation, exhaustion, disorientation, painful breasts or periods, and occasional numbness or tingling in the arms, hands, or feet.
How successful is cabergoline?
Cabergoline has been shown to help women ovulate on a regular basis, and a tiny piece of research indicated that 85 percent of women treated with this fertility treatment had successful pregnancies.
How much does fertility treatment with cabergoline cost?
Check with your doctor to see whether your insurance plan covers this medication. Cabergoline costs about $177 for eight doses on average, but it can cost as much as $230 to $240.
It’s easy to get lost in the realm of fertility medicine. However, many of these oral drugs and hormone shots have a good track record of helping couples who are trying to conceive produce healthy infants when used at your doctor’s direction.