If you're a woman with infertility issues, your doctor may prescribe medicine to help you get pregnant. These meds, called fertility drugs, work by causing your body to release hormones that trigger or regulate ovulation -- the release of an egg from your ovary.
There are lots of these drugs, but here are the basics on the ones that are most commonly prescribed.
Clomid or Serophene
Clomid and Serophene, the brand names of clomiphene, are known as estrogen-blocking drugs. They cause the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, located in your brain, to release hormones called GnRH (gonadotropin-releasing hormone), FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone). These hormones trigger your ovaries to make eggs.
These drugs are often used along with other fertility methods, like assisted reproductive techniques or artificial insemination.
How you use it: The typical starting dosage of clomiphene is 50 milligrams a day for 5 days. You usually take the first pill on the third, fourth, or fifth day after you start your period.
You can expect to start ovulating about 7 days after you've taken the last dose. If it doesn't happen right away, your doctor may ask you to increase your dose by 50 milligrams a day each month, up to 150 milligrams.
After you start to ovulate, most doctors suggest taking clomiphene for no longer than 6 months. If you haven't become pregnant after half a year, your doctor will probably prescribe a different medication or suggest that you see an infertility specialist.
How well it works: About 60% to 80% of women who take clomiphene will ovulate, and about half will be able to get pregnant. Most pregnancies happen within three cycles.
Clomid can also cause changes in your cervical mucus, which may make it harder to tell when you're fertile and may stop sperm from getting into your uterus.
Like many fertility drugs, Clomid can raise your chance of multiple births.
If Clomid on its own doesn't work, your doctor may recommend hormones to trigger ovulation. Some of the types are:
Human menopausal gonadotropin (hMG), such as Menopur, Metrodin, Pergonal, and Repronex. This drug combines FSH and LH (luteinizing hormone).
Gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), such as Factrel and Lutrepulse. This hormone triggers the release of FSH and LH from your pituitary gland, but it's rarely prescribed in the U.S.
These drugs aren't pills that you swallow. Instead, you take them as shots. The dose varies, depending on how they're being used.
You usually start taking them during your cycle, the second or third day after you see bright red blood, and continue taking them for 7 to 12 straight days. Sometimes, you may need to get injections along with Clomid that you take by mouth.
How well it works: As with clomiphene, injected hormones have a high rate of success in helping you to ovulate. Among women who do start to ovulate, as many as 50% are able to get pregnant.
Side effects: Most are mild and include problems like tenderness, infection, and blood blisters, swelling, or bruising at the injection site. There's also a risk of a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation, which makes your ovaries grow and become tender.
The drugs also raise your chances of multiple births.
Other Fertility Drugs
Aspirin . Studies show that it can cut your risk of miscarriage in certain cases, although you should talk to your doctor about whether it makes sense for you.
Heparin . It's a drug used to lower the risk of miscarriage in some cases.
Antagon ( ganirelix acetate). It's an injected drug that can prevent early ovulation in women who are having fertility procedures. Side effects can include stomach pain, headache, and possibly the loss of your pregnancy.
Dostinex ( cabergoline ) and Parlodel ( bromocriptine ). These are medications used to lower certain hormone levels and reduce the size of a pituitary tumor that may be causing your ovulation troubles. You usually take them by mouth in small doses, but the amount can be increased if your doctor says so. Side effects include dizziness and upset stomach.