How do fertility medications work?

Healthcare providers have a number of fertility medications at their disposal that they may prescribe depending on the condition of infertility. These medications have a number of different effects.

Stimulating ovaries

The basics of babymaking are that one of your ovaries needs to release an egg into a fallopian tube where it can meet a sperm cell and form an embryo. To get to the embryo, your ovaries need to be working. Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH) are two gonadotropin medications and natural hormones used in fertility treatments that stimulate your ovaries to induce ovulation.

Triggering ovulation

Some treatment plans will inject FSH or LH directly, and others will use clomiphene citrate (Clomid). Clomid works directly on the hypothalamus to downregulate estrogen receptors. This allows an increase in Gonadotropin Regulating Hormone, which increases levels of FSH and LH, kickstarting ovulation.

Lining the uterus

Progesterone is a hormone that occurs naturally in your body. It is also used as a form of fertility treatment. Usually, it’s released in the body after ovulation to thicken the uterine lining for any potential fertilized eggs. As a fertility treatment, it is delivered intravaginally either through an insert or a gel. It helps prepare the uterus for implantation, relax muscles in the uterus, and suppress your body’s immune response, making it more likely to accept the pregnancy.

Suppressing hormones

Treatments like leuprolide acetate suppress the body’s hormone production and prevent eggs from being released. This isn’t an obvious first step in a fertility treatment, but suppressing some hormones in combination with other fertility medications can help your healthcare provider control your cycle as part of a fertility treatment.

The bottom line

In order to get pregnant, you need to ovulate, and that’s why many fertility medications aim to regulate ovulation. They can also help out by making your uterine lining thick and preventing it from shedding.  Not every medication will work for everyone, so it often takes time to figure out what fertility treatment is right for you.

  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Clomiphene (Oral Route).” Mayo Clinic. November 1, 2015. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Chorionic Gonadotropin (Subcutaneous Route, Intramuscular Route, Injection Route).” Mayo Clinic. April 1, 2015. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Leuprolide (Intradermal Route, Intramuscular Route, Subcutaneous Route).” Mayo Clinic. November 1, 2015. Web.
  • Mayo Clinic Staff. “Progesterone (Oral Route).” Mayo Clinic. September 1, 2015. Web.
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