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Common Side Effects of Fertility Drugs

Katlyn Joy |11, June 2012


Fertility drugs are primarily given to women with ovulation difficulties. Even when a couple has opted for in vitro fertilization, fertility drugs are a necessary part of the treatment.


The most used fertility drug is Clomid or clomiphene citrate. This medication is typically the first line drug when treating ovulatory issues. Clomid, also called Serophene, works by stimulating the pituitary gland to produce more FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone.)

Clomid is taken as a pill and is relatively cheap. The side effects include early cycle moodiness, hot flashes, while nausea, breast tenderness, bloating and depression can occur later in the cycle. Other rare side effects include visual problems such as blurred vision and severe headaches, which may warrant stopping the medication. The drug may change a woman's cervical mucus, which in turn may impact fertilization so this must be monitored.

One notable side effect is often considered a boon; the rise of twin births. Those women taking Clomid have a 10 percent higher rate of twins that those who don't take the fertility medication. The risk of more than two babies while taking Clomid is only 1 percent higher. Some women may experience ovarian cysts while taking the drug.

Novarel, Ovidrel, Pregnyl, and Profasi

If Clomid is not successful on its own, often doctors will add other medications such as HcG drugs like Novarel, Ovidrel, Pregnyl, and Profasi. HCG or Human Chorionic Gonadotropin triggers ovulation in women. These drugs in themselves are not known to have side effects. They are given through injections.


Another add-on medication to Clomid are the class of drugs known as FSH. These include Bravelle, Follistim, and Gonal-F. These injections are given in order to stimulate the follicle growth in the ovaries.

The side effects of these are increased incidence of multiple births, prematurity, miscarriage, breast tenderness or swelling, rash from injections, bloating, moodiness including depression and enlarged ovaries.

Human Menopausal Gonadotropins (hMG)

Human Menopausal Gonadotropins or hMG are a combination of FSH and LH or luteinizing hormone. Pergonal, Metrodin, MenopurĀ® and Repronex. These are considered among the most potent of fertility drugs available today. These drugs will cause multiple eggs to be produced in a cycle. The have the same side effects as FSH drugs.

Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone (Gn-RH)

Gonadotropin Releasing Hormone or Gn-RH works on the pituitary gland to release FSH and LH. They include drugs such as Factrel and Lutrepulse which have headaches, nausea, small increase of multiple births, and bloating from enlarged ovaries as side effects.

Premature Ovulation Prevention

Some medications are given to prevent premature ovulation. These drugs include Lupron , Zoladex , Synarel, Ganirelix AcetateĀ® and Cetrotide. All are injections with the exception of Synarel which is a nasal spray. Their potential side effects include vaginal dryness, decreased breast size, headaches, hot flashes, painful intercourse, bone loss, insomnia and mood swings.

Human Menopausal Gonadotropin or Menotropin

Any drug classified as a Human Menopausal Gonadotropin or Menotropin has the risk of causing ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome or OHSS. This syndrome consists of ovarian enlargement, and fluid accumulating in the abdomen. The potential of serious consequences arises if fluid also accumulates in the area of the lung impacting breathing or if the ovary ruptures. Also, the imbalance of fluid may contribute to blood clots which while rare, can be fatal.

About twenty percent of HMG pregnancies are multiples, most of which are twin pregnancies. About 5 percent are three or more babies.

All women taking fertility medications must be carefully and consistently monitored. Some monitoring methods include ultrasound observation and checking estrogen levels in the blood to make sure the correct dosage is administered.

There are other fertility treatments available as well, depending on the problem being addressed. Whatever medication a woman is prescribed it is vital that she understands exactly how and when to administer it, and what the potential side effects are. She should also know what kinds of symptoms can wait to be reported and which ones warrant a doctor's visit or even an ER trip.

Related Articles

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Your First Fertility Doctor Appointment: What to Expect


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