Fertility drugs are the first step in fertility treatment. Infertility affects 7.1% of married couples in the United States, a figure that represents 2.8 million married couples.
Several factors can lead to infertility, including poor egg production and quality and irregular or lack of ovulation due to a hormonal balance may also result in infertility.
Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) can also result in infertility; PCOS is caused by a hormonal imbalance that leads to the inability to release eggs. PCOS may also result in painful cysts.
The fact that women today are generally trying to conceive later in life is also a factor that can affect the quality of her eggs and lead to her to turn to fertility drug treatment.
Poor sperm count and quality is another reason why couples have trouble conceiving on their own.
Common Fertility Drugs
Fertility drugs promote ovulation by stimulating hormones in the brain which control egg production.
Clomiphene is one common fertility drug. This drug, more commonly known as Clomid, is taken in a daily pill form. It is particularly helpful for women who have PCOS, and also helps with hormonal imbalances linked to low sperm count, quality and mobility.
Gonadotropins (also known as Pergonal) is used in cases when clomiphene isn't effective. It is administered via an injection on the third day of a woman's menstrual cycle, a dose that is continued for a period of seven to twelve days. Gonadoptropins works best for women who have PCOS or who have unexplained fertility problems. It can be used in conjunction with In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) to stimulate egg production.
On the other hand, bromocriptine is prescribed when ovulation problems are caused by pituitary adenoma, a benign tumor. Bromocriptine, which is also known as Parlodel, can be administered either orally or vaginally and is taken 2 to 3 times daily for a period of a few months.
Rates of Success
In patients who take bromocriptine, 90% of women continue ovulating while on the drug while 65% to 85% of these women become pregnant. This wide range in percentage is dependant on a wide variety of factors, including the woman's age and the quality of the man's sperm.
Clomiphene leads to an 80% ovulation success rate with 40% of these women being successful in becoming pregnant. Thirty to sixty percent of these pregnancies result in live births.
Gonadotropins leads to a 20 to 60% rate of success in conceiving, while the live birth rate is estimated to be 75 to 80%.
Clomiphene often results in stomach pain, mild swelling of the ovaries, vomiting and, in rare cases, ovarian cysts.
Gonadotropins can lead to such symptoms as weight gain and tenderness, while bromocriptine can lead to fatigue, headaches and diarrhea.
Women should be aware that taking fertility drugs is an emotionally exhausting process that requires frequent check ups and regular monitoring. Establishing a support system (including a doctor whom you and your partner trust and a friend or loved one in whom to confide) is crucial step you should take before beginning any fertility treatment plan.
Like IVF, fertility drugs increase the risk of multiple births.
Multiple births pose special risks because they increase the chance of miscarriage and preterm labor. Premature babies often have serious health problems, such as underdeveloped lungs.
Gonadotropins increase the risk of multiple births by 10 to 40%, while 10% of clomiphene users conceive multiple babies, usually twins.
Bromocriptine doesn't increase a woman's chance of giving birth to multiple babies.
To reduce the risk of multiple births, a woman must be closely monitored by her physician; adjusting the dosage of the prescribed drug is another option.
A recent study found that fertility drugs do not increase a woman's risk of developing ovarian cancer, putting an end to years of debate over the link between ovarian cancer and fertility drug use.