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Fertility Drugs – Are they Right for You?

fertility drugs

You may be wondering if fertility drugs are any good for you. Fertility drugs may assist reproductive function. They stimulate follicle development in women and are sometimes used to treat male infertility.

Uses for Fertility Drugs

PCOS

Oral contraceptives are commonly prescribed for Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) since they suppress androgen production and induce regular menstruation. If you have PCOS but are not trying to get pregnant, then oral contraceptive pills (OCP) are a viable short term option while you are addressing the condition with natural treatments. Ethinyl estradiol with progestins (Demulen, Ortho 1/35) is an OCP that doctors usually prescribe for PCOS.

Antiandrogens are also prescribed for PCOS. These actively block androgen production. Examples of antiandrogens are Spironolactone (Aldactone), Leuprolide (Lupron) and Finasteride (Proscar, Propecia). Common side effects from using antiandrogens include drowsiness, dizziness, diarrhea, vomiting and headaches. Herbs with anti-androgenic action are Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice) and Paeonia lactiflora (Peony). They have been successfully used by naturopaths to treat PCOS for decades.

Progesterone, such as Medroxyprogesterone (Provera), is also prescribed for secondary amenorrhea which is a symptom of PCOS.

Endometriosis

Fertility drugs for endometriosis are meant to lessen the severity of the disease and prevent further complications. Combination oral contraceptive pills (COCPs), a commonly prescribed drug for endometriosis, works by putting the ovaries to sleep. This puts you in a temporary menopausal state. This method protects your ovaries and is called ovarian suppression.

COCPs are typically prescribed for 3 months. If the pain you feel from endometriosis is not lessened, you will be asked to continue taking COCPs for another 6 to 12 months. Between 40% to 50% of women who have used COCPs get pregnant within 12 months of stopping taking the pill.(Emedicine, 2011). Examples of COCPs prescribed for endometriosis are Norgestimate/ethinyl estradiol (Ortho-Cyclen, Ortho-Prefest, Ortho Tri-Cycle).

Danazol (Danocrine) is an antigonadotropic agent that works to minimize endometriosis-related pain (Razzi et al, Oct 2007). It is as effective as other newer antigonadotropic agents but has a higher occurrence of side effects. You can have oily skin, acne attacks, significant weight gain, deepening of the voice and excessive facial hair when using Danazol.

Danazol may cause a female fetus to develop male characteristics. For this reason you are advised to use contraception when taking this drug.

Premature Ovarian Failure

Fertility drugs for premature ovarian failure is intended to lessen the severity of the disease and to prevent further complications. Estrogens such as Estradiol transdermal system (Alora) and Conjugated equine estrogens (Premarin) are common medications for premature ovarian failure. Estrogens work by lowering your luteinizing hormone (LH) levels to normal (Nelson et al, Nov 1994). This prevents your follicles from luteinizing prematurely,  increasing your chances of pregnancy.

Continuous intake of synthetic estrogens increases the risk of stroke, breast cancer and deep vein thrombosis in older women.

Low Sperm Count

Low sperm count may be improved by fertility drugs that are estrogen receptor blockers such as Clomiphene citrate. Clomiphene (Clomid) works by blocking estrogen binding to increase the secretion of gonadotropin releasing hormones (GnRH). GnRH causes the pituitary gland to secrete follicle stimulating hormones (FSH). In women, FSH promotes ovulation. In men, FSH stimulates sperm production in the testes.

“Typical ovulation”

“Typical ovulation” is a procedure used to induce ovulation. In 2005, almost 32,000 of multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.) in the United States were conceived using typical ovulation treatment. Another 159,000 of the single births in the US were also conceived using the same procedure. A total of 191,000 births from typical ovulation compose almost 4.6% of the total annual births in the United States (Schieve et al, 2009).

You should always aim to treat the cause of your condition with natural treatments before you opt for fertility drugs. All drugs come with side effects and some can have a devastating effect on your health. Natural treatments use nutrients and herbs which rarely have side effects when administered by a trained health professional. This is because nutrients are building blocks of our cells and the body can use these or dispose of the excess. Herbs contain multiple active ingredients which due to their synergistic action can block the negative effect of individual ingredients. Isolated ingredients are used by pharmaceutical companies as they can be patented, but in such form they can also cause harm as they are not combined with the other components – the way the nature intended it.

Have you used fertility drugs for your condition? What was your experience like and would you recommend fertility drugs to your best friend? Would love to hear from you!

Sources:

  • Davey, Patrick. Medicine at a Glance. Wiley-Blackwell, 2006
  • Emedicine.2011.Medscape. 16 February 2011 <http://emedicine.medscape.com
  • Nelson LM, Anasti JN, Kimzey LM, et al. Development of luteinized graafian follicles in patients with karyotypically normal spontaneous premature ovarian failure. J Clin Endocrinol Metab. Nov 1994;79(5):1470-5. [Medline]
  • Razzi S, Luisi S, Calonaci F, Altomare A, Bocchi C, Petraglia F. Efficacy of vaginal danazol treatment in women with recurrent deeply infiltrating endometriosis. Fertil Steril. Oct 2007;88(4):789-94. [Medline].
  • Schieve LA, Devine O, Boyle CA, Petrini JR, Warner L. Estimation of the Contribution of Non–Assisted Reproductive Technology Ovulation Stimulation Fertility Treatments to US Singleton and Multiple Births. Am J Epidemiol. 2009;170:1396-1407.
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About the Author: Iva Keene MRMed. ND. - Natural Fertility Specialist

Iva Keene is co-founder, creator and award-winning author of the NFP Program and director of Natural-Fertility-Prescription.com. She holds a Bachelor Degree in Health Science in Naturopathy and a Master Degree in Reproductive Medicine. She has been a qualified and internationally accredited Naturopathic Physician for over 15 years. Since founding NFP in 2008, Iva’s articles, videos, guides, and reports have reached over 1.3 million people. Iva has dedicated her professional life to supporting couples on their path to parenthood with scientifically grounded information, protocols, and coaching around preconception care, natural infertility treatments, and integrative reproductive health.