Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART): Fertility Drugs

Assisted reproductive technology, often called ART, refers to the usage of medications or medical procedures to enable a couple to become pregnant. Prior to resorting to ART procedures, such as in vitro fertilization or egg donation, many fertility specialists will recommend using fertility drugs to assist in becoming pregnant. Below is a description of the types of drugs available, the purpose of fertility drugs and possible side effects of these medications.  As always, speak thoroughly with your physician about any medications he recommends prior to ingestion.

Purpose of Fertility Drugs

Depending on the type of medication, the purpose of fertility drugs is to enable or increase the body’s chances of becoming or remaining pregnant. Additionally, some medications, usually hormones, are intended to prepare a woman’s body for implantation procedures. For example, in egg donation, the recipient ingests several medications to enable the fertilized egg to implant itself in the uterine wall. 

Types of Fertility Drugs

Fertility drugs are aimed to resolve or reduce the impact of several different fertility issues. Some medications will regulate a woman’s menstrual cycle so that the release of eggs will be more predictable. Other medications can stimulate the production of eggs in the ovaries. Other medications will thin or thicken the uterine wall to enable implantation.

The medications commonly prescribed to men are those that will increase the fluid surrounding the sperm after ejaculation to provide the sperm with better motility. Male hormones will also increase the body’s production of the amount and quality of sperm.

The Timing and Use of Fertility Drugs

While a physician may first try fertility drugs on a new patient, such medications are also used in conjunction with ART procedures. It is not uncommon, therefore, for patients to take multiple medications prior to, during and following fertility procedures. For example, a woman undergoing in vitro fertilization may ingest hormones and medications to prepare the uterine wall for implantation.

Because of this, how the medications are ingested, whether in a pill or by injection, when they are to be taken and for how long they should be continued vary based on the patient’s lifestyle, age and the procedure. In certain situations, fertility drugs may need to be ingested on a long term basis. In less serious cases of infertility, the round of medication may be relatively short.

Side Effects of Fertility Drugs

Fertility drugs are extremely powerful. Their side effects can be severe and overwhelming. Commonly, users of hormone fertility drugs report elevated emotional levels, increased irritability and possibly some weight gain or loss. Other side effects can include increased frequency and length of menstrual cycles and exhaustion.

The most common side effect of fertility drugs, though, is the potential for multiple births. Fertility drugs enhance the production and quality of eggs and sperm, making it likely that a body will release multiple eggs at once rather than the one per month as it normally releases. Twins, triplets and quadruplets are not uncommon when fertility drugs are used.