Written by Ben Bunting: BA(Hons), PGCert.
Many of the people treated for infertility issues currently will be treated with fertility drugs. In some cases, they may even undergo surgical procedures.
As with any drugs taken for medical reasons, safety is always at the forefront of everyone's mind, especially when it comes to their ability to have children.
Fertility drugs became available in 1967, and over eight million babies have been born using IVF (in vitro fertilization) or other procedures since the first successful IVF birth was acheived in the United Kingdom.
Countless studies have been done on the safety of fertility drugs, and they continue to be scrutinized to ensure patient safety on their journey to have children.
In this article, we're going to cover as much as possible, including:
- What Is Fertility?
- Safety of Fertility Drugs
- Drugs as Part of IVF
- Drugs to Stimulate Ovulation
- Male Fertility Drugs
- Dosing Regimens
- Safety Studies
What Is Fertility?
Fertility is the natural capacity to conceive a child or induce conception. However, approximately 10% to 15% of couples throughout the United States are affected by infertility which is typically defined as the inability to conceive naturally after one year of unprotected sex.
Fertility is not restricted to a female health issue as both men and women can experience infertility. Aside from fertility drugs, there are steps you can take to increase your fertility.
Safety of Fertility Drugs
History and research to date tell us that fertility drugs are indeed safe to take. However, one condition that women should be aware of when taking fertility drugs is ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, commonly referred to as OHSS.
This complication typically occurs during the menstrual cycle or soon after and is more common if pregnancy transpires.
OHSS is uncommon and causes the enlargement of the ovaries, weight gain, and fluid retention, with symptoms ranging from mild to serious.
However, the occurrence of life-threatening ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome is very low, with research showing that severe cases happen in 0.5-2 percent of cycles.
Even though there has been a significant increase in the number of IVF procedures, the average annual number of severe OHSS cases has remained largely the same.
Hospitalization for ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome is mostly unheard of today. Medical staff are equipped to identify any patients at high risk of developing OHSS before IVF begins, and advancements in treating the condition have led to fewer severe reactions from those at high risk.
Age is also a concern, however, this is similar for mothers undergoing IVF as it is naturally. The risk of miscarriage can be 15% for women in their 20s and over 50% for mothers in their 40s.
Drugs as Part of IVF
It is well known that drugs are a significant side of IVF for women. They are used to obtain more eggs for fertilization in which to create embryos, freeze eggs, or be an egg donor.
The drugs used during in vitro fertilization typically utilize gonadotropins. These are drugs that begin the process of stimulating the ovaries with the aim to produce as many eggs as possible at once.
Drugs to Stimulate Ovulation
Women that don’t ovulate often, or at all, can use fertility drugs to stimulate their ovulation.
The goal of ovulation induction is to achieve the ovulation of one or two eggs to conceive. The drugs used for this treatment usually involve clomiphene, letrozole, or gonadotropins.
For women with abnormal ovulation, intrauterine insemination (IUI) is often performed when ovulation occurs in order to increase the chances of a successful pregnancy.
However, for women with normal ovulation who are struggling to conceive, a fertility drug may help produce more than one egg at a time in a process called ovarian stimulation.
Outside of IVF, the drugs used to create ovarian stimulation typically involve clomiphene or letrozole and, on rare occasions, gonadotropins.
Male Fertility Drugs
People often mistakenly believe that fertility drugs exist solely to treat infertility in women.
However, there are several treatments that can be used to treat male infertility, which can range from injecting additional hormones to male fertility injections that improve sperm motility and morphology; this is the sperm's movement and physical structure.
Male fertility drugs can change a man's hormones in many ways, such as helping get your fertility back on track by decreasing the amount of estradiol and increasing the amount of bioavailable testosterone.
The drugs typically used to assist male fertility include clomiphene, anastrozole, hCG (human chorionic gonadotrophin), or hMG (human menopausal gonadotropin).
However, in many cases, the first port of call for any man who may feel his fertility is impaired is by taking a look at their lifestyle. Areas such as:
- Poor nutrition
- Lack of exercise
- Too little sleep
- Smoking tobacco
- High alcohol consumption
- Recreational drug use
- Excessive endurance training
All of these points can negatively impact your body's ability to produce mobile and healthy sperm.
This is where supplements such as Fertiligy can help. It addresses nutritional deficiencies and helps to improve anti-oxidant intake.
Fertility specialists have developed standard dosing regimens, but there is room to customize every protocol to fit an individual's size and health within these regimes. However, tracking the exact outcomes of the use of fertility drugs is impossible currently.
Many professionals have recommended that the government update their requirements to track drugs and dosage given during IVF to improve reporting, especially for any IVF treatments linked to hospitalization, to have a better understanding of any adverse reaction to the drugs used.
This is why The Society for Assisted Reproductive Technology in the United States is now tracking drugs and doses to gain better information for not only research purposes but for the safety of patients going forward.
Beyond the rare occurrence of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, many researchers question if there are any long-term effects for taking infertility drugs; without better tracking, it is challenging to study this aspect of fertility drugs.
However, there are also some unanswered questions regarding the health risks poised to people who were conceived by IVF and their consequent offspring.
Extensive studies conducted on women who took fertility drugs found no connection between fertility drugs and ovarian cancer.
A further study also found no increased risk of developing breast cancer or invasive uterine cancer in those who underwent fertility treatment using fertility drugs.
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine guidelines shows us that there does not appear to be a significantly increased risk of invasive ovarian, endometrial, or breast cancer for fertility patients.
They do recommend that more research is conducted to have an even better understanding of any risks that may come with taking fertility drugs.
As this article shows, fertility drugs are quite safe and an excellent way to help you on your journey to start a family.
If you're suffering from male infertility, check out Fertiligy for a natural solution that can improve your fertility and give you more energy.