Infertility medications are one of the greatest advances in the rapidly growing field of fertility treatment. The drugs developed over the past few decades have allowed fertility experts to hone their treatments, and increase the chances of a successful cycle. Infertility treatments, such as Inter-Uterine Insertion and In-Vitro Fertilization were always very hit and miss, but the refined drugs on the market help the experts to control the timing of ovulation and harvest multiple eggs.
Infertility medications have helped thousands of couples to have children and raise a family, without the trauma of undergoing repeated treatment cycles with little chance of success. The modern array of assisted reproductive treatments means that the success rate is high, but this would not be possible without infertility medications.
There are some concerns about the potential side effects of infertility medications, but few drugs are completely without risk, and careful monitoring and aftercare ensures that they rarely become an issue. In this article, we will look at some of the common medications, discuss some of the risks and then look at how they are used in some of the major assisted reproductive methods.
Clomiphine: This is one of the most versatile of the infertility drugs, and had been in use for many years, with few problems. The drug works by stimulating the piturity gland to release Follicle Stimulating Hormone, FSH, which stimulates the ovaries into producing an egg. This infertility medication is most commonly used in women with ovulation problems, and causes the woman to ovulate 70 – 90 percent of the time. 20 – 60 percent of women who take a course of this drug become pregnant, so it has helped thousands of couples, with infertility problems, to start families. There are some side effects of stromach cramps, mood swings and some evidence of a slightly increased risk of breast or ovarian cancer, but these are regarded as minor risks.
Human Menopausal Gonadotrophin: This drug is made from purified FSH, and directly stimulates the ovaries into developing mature eggs. After a course of shots, lasting from 7 to 12 days, the woman is given a shot of human chorionic gonadotropin, inducing the ovaries to release the eggs. This medication has a similar success rate as Clomiphine, and carries few long term risks. However, the drug carries a high risk of multiple births and may also cause hyperstimulation of the ovaries, with potentially serious consequences. As a result, the drug is generally only administered after Clomiphine has been ineffective. With careful supervision, the drug is safe, and has resulted in thousands of successful pregnancies.
Bromocriptine: This is taken orally or as a vaginal suppository and works by reducing the amount of prolactin produced by the piturity gland. IN many women with fertility problems, high levels of prolactin inhibits ovulation, through reduced levels of estrogen. The drug has a god rate of success, and 90 percent of women taking Bromocriptine regularlyovulate normally. The figures pregnancy are good, too, and 65 to 85 percent of the women with a successful ovulation will become pregnant. As with the other drugs, Bromocriptine has some side effects, which can include nausea, low blood headaches and drowsiness. However, taking the drug vaginally seems to reduce the occurrence of these effects.
There are many other drugs on the market, but they fall into broadly the same categories and work in a similar way to the above three. These drugs have heped many women become pregnant, but they are also used extensively in physical assistec reproduction techniques. Two of these are IUI and IVF, which offer another option for couples requiring a higher level of intervention.
Infertility Medications – The Various Types
Infertility medications are an invaluable tool in the fight against infertility, and are responsible for helping thousands of couples in the US and world wide. The vast majority of fertility drugs affect the woman’s ovulation cycle, usually triggering an ovulation event. In many cases, this is enough and allows a woman to become pregnant through conventional means. In more complicated situations, the medication allows the doctors to harvest ova for IUI and IVF treatments, greatly increasing the chances of a successful, full-term pregnancy.
There are a number of reasons why it may be necessary to induce ovulation. Many women have problems with ovulation, and the drugs gently help the production of eggs, increasing the chances of pregnancy. In many other cases, male infertility lies at the root of the problem, and IVF treatment is the only possibility. In this case, the fertility doctors prefer to spread the risk and work with more than one egg. Infertility medicines stimulate the woman into releasing more than one egg, increasing the chances of success.
There are a number of medicines on the market, commonly used by doctors to induce ovulation. This technique has been used for over 30 years, so is a mainstay of assisted reproductive therapy. They are the easiest and cheapest solution to problems with infertility, and the advanced techniques are generally only used after these options have been exhausted, or the infertility problem is caused by cancer treatment or male fertility issues. In these circumstances, IUI and IVF are the only choices.
IUI Infertility Treatment
IUI fertility treatment is the most common form of infertility treatment, consisting of injecting washed sperm directly into the uterus. Also known as Artificial Insemination, this method is the simplest and the cheapest, and is often tried before the more complex procedures, such as IVF and infertility medication. The sperm is injected into the uterus, via a catheter, and has a greater chance of reaching the fallopian tubes where it can fertilize the eggs.
Discussing the treatment with a doctor may help: although IUI is less effective over an individual cycle, the lower cost allows more attempts, a factor that needs to be carefully balanced during the preliminary interview with the experts. IUI is most often used where there are male infertility issues and where the woman has problems with abnormal or inhospitable cervical mucus, which hinders the sperm successfully passing into the uterus.
Ultrasound and ovulation detection kits ensure that the woman undergoes the procedure at the right time, just after ovulation, increasing the chances of success. The procedure is relatively painless, and the ovulation is usually triggered by infertility medication, allowing the clinic some degree of control in the timing.
In Vitro Fertilization
In vitro fertilization is one of the most common forms of assisted reproductive technology, and the whole cycle of treatment relies heavily upon fertility drugs. The drugs stimulate ovulation and usually induce the release of more than one egg, essential for IVF treatment, where doctors rely upon multiple implantations to increase the chances of success.Allied with the new infertility medications, the success rates of IVF treatments are increasing year on year, helping a far larger proportion of couples achieve success in a smaller number of cycles. Recent research shows that the chances of becoming pregnant after an IVF treatment are higher than for natural sex, although this must be tempered by a few factors. Still, IVF treatment is no longer the hit and miss affair of even a decade ago, with the chance of success more than doubling in that time.
What about the Side Effects?
All drugs carry some risk of side effects, and the key is to ensure that you are in the hands of experts. If you listen to their advice, then complications are rare. The most immediate problem is from multiple births, which may place both the mother and the babies at risk. Better IVF facilities carefully monitor the woman throughout the course of her cycle, and if they detect hyperstimulation of the ovaries, will advice not becoming pregnant for that cycle. Of course, if the drugs are used for IVF, there is less of a problem as the doctors do not have to implant all of the resulting embryos.
Research into the increased cancer risk of taking fertility drugs has been inconclusive, and any perceived risk of cancer is small and may also depend upon other factors. Certainly, there is little evidence to suggest that the side effects should prevent any woman from taking a course of treatment, as the benefits far outweigh the cost. Of course, if IUI or IVF are used, infertility medications are an essential part of the process, giving doctors a high degree of control over the entire ovulation cycle.
Infertility medications have been the mainstay of assisted reproduction technology for over 30 years, and have resulted in thousands of successful pregnancies. Considering that 7.1% of couples experience fertility problems, they are essential in providing many couples with the opportunity to start and raise a family, often taken for granted by others. Certainly, treatment with fertility medication is a great option where finances are an issue, or where insurance companies do not cover the cost of IVF treatment.
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