Your Guide to Fertility Hormones

Fertility hormones are given to women experiencing clinical infertility, or the inability to get pregnant after trying to get pregnant naturally for one year. Fertility medications help increase a woman’s chance of conceiving and achieving pregnancy by promoting release of hormones that regulate or trigger release of eggs from the ovaries (ovulation). In some cases, fertility hormones are used in conjunction with in vitro fertilization or other methods meant to enhance fertility.

Commonly Prescribed Fertility Hormones

Clomid and Serophene

Clomiphene (brand names Serophene or Clomid) is an estrogen-blocking fertility hormone that causes the pituitary and hypothalamus glands to release luteinizing, follicle-stimulating and gonadotropin-releasing hormones. Without sufficient levels of these hormones in the bloodstream, a woman’s ovaries cannot produce viable eggs. In many cases, Clomid or Serophone are used in conjunction with artificial insemination or other assisted reproductive techniques to increase fertility.

Women taking clomiphene are typically prescribed 50 mg per day for five days. Ovulation usually begins seven or eight days after taking the final dose of clomiphene. If ovulation does not occur, your fertility doctor may increase the daily dose. Once a woman starts ovulating, she may continue taking clomphene for no more than six months. If pregnancy does not occur after six months on clomiphene, a different fertility hormone may be prescribed.

Side effects of Serophene or Clomid are mild and include headache, bloating, nausea, blurry vision and hot flashes.

Letrozole (Femara)

Femara belongs to a class of medications call aromatase inihibitors. Although Femara is primarily prescribed to treat some types of breast cancer, it is also used to increase fertility. By inhibiting aromatase (an enzyme responsible for biosynthesis of estrogens), letrozole suppresses estrogen production while promoting the release of follicle stimulating hormone. For women diagnosed with anovulation or polycystic ovary syndrome, the ability of letrozole to increase the pituitary gland’s output of FSH encourages development of one mature follicle in an ovary and, ultimately, egg ovulation.

Femara may be prescribed to women who are already ovulating on their own to improve the chance that multiple follicles will develop and multiple eggs will be release by an ovary. Fertility doctors call the stimulation of multiple eggs and follicles “controlled ovarian hyperstimulation” or “superovulation”. In addition, complementing Femara with intrauterine insemination (IUI) significantly increases a woman’s chance for achieving pregnancy.

Side effects of letrozole include dizziness, flushing, swelling of hands and feet and fatigue. These side effects may be temporary or not appear at all in some women.

Gonadotropins (Follistim/Gonal-F/Bravelle/Menopur

Gonadotropins can help women ovulate if they took clomiphene and did not respond to this fertility hormone. Doctors may also prescribe gonadotropins if a woman does not produce enough luteinizing hormone or follicle stimulating hormone. Gonadotropins are also given to men who do not produce enough sperm to initiate a pregnancy.

Follistim, Gonal-F and other gonadotropins are injected under the skin at home using pre-dosed injection pens. Women undergoing gonadotropin fertility therapy must visit their doctor frequently for examinations and blood testing. Before women are prescribed gonadotropins, fertility doctors perform endocrinologic and gynecologic evaluations that include a pelvic anatomy assessment. Women diagnosed with tubal obstructions should receive gonadotropins only if they are enrolled in an IVF program.

Because women over 35 may have a higher risk for endometrial carcinoma or anovulatory disorders, fertility doctors will perform in-depth diagnostic evaluations before prescribing gonadotropins for infertility issues.

Women may experience sore buttocks from injections of gonadotropins. Headaches and fatigue have been reported as the main side effects of using this kind of fertility hormones. Tylenol can be taken to relieve discomfort but women undergoing gonadotropin treatment should not take Motrin or Advil. Ibuprofen products may interfere with ovulation.

For more information about how fertility hormones or assisted reproductive technologies may help you become pregnant, contact Viera Fertility today to schedule a consultation appointment with our fertility doctor. We also offer fertility testing for men and women as well as fertility counseling services.