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Frequently Asked Questions About Infertility

What medicines are used to treat infertility in women?

Some common medicines used to treat infertility in women include:

  • Clomiphene citrate (Clomid):This medicine causes ovulation by acting on the pituitary gland. It is often used in women who have polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or other problems with ovulation. This medicine is taken by mouth.
  • Human menopausal gonadotropin or hMG (Repronex, Pergonal): This medicine is often used for women who don't ovulate due to problems with their pituitary gland. hMG acts directly on the ovaries to stimulate ovulation. It is an injected medicine.
  • Follicle-stimulating hormone or FSH (Gonal-F, Follistim): FSH works much like hMG. It causes the ovaries to begin the process of ovulation. These medicines are usually injected.
  • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (Gn-RH) analog: These medicines are often used for women who don't ovulate regularly each month. Women who ovulate before the egg is ready can also use these medicines. Gn-RH analogs act on the pituitary gland to change when the body ovulates. These medicines are usually injected or given with a nasal spray.
  • Metformin (Glucophage):Doctors use this medicine for women who have insulin resistance and/or polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). This drug helps lower the high levels of male hormones in women with these conditions. This helps the body to ovulate. Sometimes clomiphene citrate or FSH is combined with metformin. This medicine is usually taken by mouth.
  • Bromocriptine (Parlodel): This medicine is used for women with ovulation problems due to high levels of prolactin. Prolactin is a hormone that causes milk production.

Many fertility drugs increase a woman's chance of having twins, triplets, or other multiples. Women who are pregnant with multiple fetuses have more problems during pregnancy. Multiple fetuses have a high risk of being born too early (prematurely). Premature babies are at a higher risk of health and developmental problems.

What is assisted reproductive technology (ART)?

Assisted reproductive technology (ART) is a term that describes several different methods used to help infertile couples. ART involves removing eggs from a woman's body, mixing them with sperm in the laboratory, and putting the embryos back into a woman's body.

How often is assisted reproductive technology (ART) successful?

Success rates vary and depend on many factors. Some things that affect the success rate of ART include:

  • Age of the partners
  • Reason for infertility
  • Fertility clinic
  • Type of ART
  • If the egg is fresh or frozen
  • If the embryo is fresh or frozen

The CDC collects success rates on ART for some fertility clinics. According to the 2003 CDC report on ART, the average percentage of ART cycles that led to a healthy baby were as follows:

  • 37.3% in women under the age of 35
  • 30.2% in women aged 35-37
  • 20.2% in women aged 37-40
  • 11.0% in women aged 41-42

ART can be expensive and time-consuming. But it has allowed many couples to have children that otherwise would not have been conceived. The most common complication of ART is multiple fetuses. But this is a problem that can be prevented or minimized in several different ways.

WebMD Public Information from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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