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Medications for Infertility in Women

The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea of what to expect from each of these medications. Only the most common side effects are included. Ask your healthcare provider if there are any precautions specific for you. Use each of these medications as recommended by your healthcare provider and according to the instructions provided with the medication. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, contact your healthcare provider.

You may be given medications that stimulate your ovaries to produce more eggs. The likelihood of multiple births is increased with these medications

Prescription Medications

Medications to Help Stimulate Ovulation

  • Clomiphene citrate
  • Metformin
  • Progesterone
  • Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)
  • Human menopausal gonadotropin (hMG)
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)

Medications to Help Correct Hormonal Imbalances

  • Gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists
  • GnRH antagonists
  • Bromocriptine mesylate

Prescription Medications

Common names include:

  • Clomid
  • Serophene

This drug can help when infertility is caused by ovulatory problems, such as inadequate secretion of luteinizing hormone (LH) or FSH. Clomiphene citrate causes a surge in LH and FSH release by the brain that ultimately stimulates ovulation. The drug is taken orally as a tablet, usually for 5 days. If ovulation does not occur, the regimen may be repeated, usually with a higher dose. Timing of the dose is important, so you’ll probably be advised to take the tablet at the same time every day. If you miss a dose, contact your healthcare provider to determine when to take the next dose. The ovary must be producing some level of estrogen if clomiphene is to work successfully.

Possible side effects include:

  • Hot flashes
  • Migraines
  • Breast discomfort
  • Vaginal dryness

This drug is sometimes used in combination with clomiphene in women polycystic ovarian syndrome.

This drug is sometimes used in combination with clomiphene to trigger a period prior to a cycle with clomiphene. Progesterone will only stimulate a period if the ovary is producing estrogen.

Common names include:

  • Profasi, Pregnyl, Ovidrel
  • Pergonal, Humegon
  • Follistim, Gonal F

Both hCG and hMG are naturally occurring hormones that work by inducing maturation of the ovarian follicle and release of a mature egg. hCG works like LH, and hMG has activities of both LH and FSH. Both drugs are provided as intramuscular injections, although more purified forms of hMG may be injected under the skin. hCG is usually provided as a single injection during a fertility treatment cycle. hMG may be given for 10 days or more. Blood levels of estrogen and other reproductive hormones may be monitored throughout treatment, and dosages of the drugs may be adjusted accordingly. FSH may also be provided directly as an injection usually for five days. Women whose infertility is related to polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) may be treated with FSH for longer periods of time.

Possible side effects include:

  • Injection site pain
  • Lower abdomen tenderness (this symptom must be reported to the doctor because it may indicate hyperstimulation of the ovary and the formation of large ovarian cysts)
  • Fluid retention, breast tenderness
  • Headache
  • Emotional irritability
  • Hyperstimulation of the ovaries
  • Multiple births
Medications to Help Correct Hormonal Imbalances

Common names include:

  • Lupron
  • Synarel

GnRH analogs are synthetic versions of naturally occurring hormones. These drugs suppress secretion of pituitary hormones, which prevents premature ovulation and helps control ovulatory cycles during fertility treatment. They may be given by injection, nasal spray, or implants.

Possible side effects include:

  • Hot flashes, night sweats, headaches
  • Emotional irritability
  • Lower abdomen tenderness
  • Bone loss with long-term use

Common names include:

  • Antagon
  • Cetrotide

Like the GnRH analogs, they also suppress release of LH and, to a lesser extent, FSH. This activity delays the LH surge and ovulation, which is useful in synchronizing ovulatory cycles during fertility treatment.

Possible side effects include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Headache

Common names include:

  • Parlodel
  • Ergoset

This drug is prescribed for women who have elevated levels of the pituitary hormone prolactin. Although prolactin is important during lactation, high levels can cause irregular menstrual cycles, suppress ovulation, and interfere with fertility. The drug is provided as a tablet, which is taken with food 1-3 times daily. When prolactin levels are normalized, regular periods usually begin within 6-8 weeks.

Possible side effects include:

  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Tingling in hands and feet

Special Considerations

If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines:

  • Take the medication as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
  • Ask what side effects could occur. Report them to your doctor.
  • Talk to your doctor before you stop taking any prescription medication.
  • Plan ahead for refills if you need them.
  • Do not share your prescription medication with anyone.
  • Medications can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to your doctor if you are taking more than one medication, including over-the-counter products and supplements.

Revision Information

  • Fritz MC, Speroff L. Clinical Gynecologic Endocrinolgy and Infertility. Section IV: Infertility. 8th ed. New York, NY: Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins; 2011.

  • Infertility in women. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116334/Infertility-in-women. Updated July 12, 2016. Accessed October 6, 2016.

  • Treating infertility. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists website. Available at: http://www.acog.org/Patients/FAQs/Treating-Infertility. Accessed January 7, 2014.