Subfertility vs infertility
Although the terms are often used interchangeably, a delay in becoming pregnant is referred to as subfertility. Infertility, on the other hand, is the inability to conceive after 1 year of unprotected sexual intercourse. Women struggling to get pregnant with either condition can turn to fertility medications, in vitro fertilization (IVF), intrauterine insemination (IUI), or donor eggs or sperm.
Turning to fertility medication
If the woman factor is the reason for subfertility, doctors will usually start by recommending fertility drugs to achieve pregnancy. The medications include ovulatory stimulants, injectable hormones, gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonists, and dopamine receptor agonists. Other drugs include aromatase inhibitors and insulin-sensitizing medications. Each drug type has a physiological effect that increases the chance of successful conception. Depending on the patient’s age, health, and length of subfertility, the healthcare provider will advise on the best medication for the patient.
Every woman’s body responds to medications differently. With ovulatory stimulants, about 60-80% of women ovulate, and half will result in pregnancy. Injectable hormones are usually successful as well. About half of the patients who ovulate can conceive. Sometimes, the doctor may recommend combined therapies to achieve a better outcome.
Possible side effects
Every type of fertility medication has side effects that can negatively affect health. Ovulatory stimulants can cause mild adverse events such as nausea, hot flashes, headaches, vision changes, bloating, and twin pregnancy. Injectable hormones can cause swelling, bruising, or infection at the injection site, ovarian stimulation, and multiple births. With gonadotropin-releasing hormone antagonists, a patient may be at risk of headaches, insomnia, and abdominal pain. Dopamine receptor agonists increase the chance of dizziness, nasal congestion, headaches, and nausea. The good news is that most short-term side effects resolve once the cycle is complete.
A combined approach
Fertility medications are also used in more invasive fertility treatments to achieve an optimal outcome. Doctors use a combination of medications during procedures such as IUI and IVF to increase the chances of success. Although not every patient with subfertility requires assisted reproductive techniques (ART) to get pregnant, medications can improve the chances of pregnancy if IUI or IVF is desired.
Getting pregnant with medication
Fertility medications can help a patient with subfertility by increasing the chances of conception. There are multiple regimens a doctor can choose from. If subfertility is a concern, speak with a fertility specialist about all the possible options to become pregnant using medication.