Quick Guide: Fertility Drugs A to Z

A Quick Rundown on Drugs Used in Fertility Treatment

When you start fertility treatment or begin researching it, you may find an alphabet soup of different drug names.  If not A to Z, they do run from Clomid to Vivelle, and beyond!

Some of them will play a role in the treatment plan your fertility specialist develops for you, based on your test results, your age and other factors.  Here’s a summary of some of the most commonly used fertility drugs for women.

Clomiphene

Brand names:  Clomid and Serophene

Clomiphene is an oral medication (in this case, a pill) which is used to stimulate ovulation.  It works by blocking estrogen receptors in the hypothalamus, a section of your brain which is responsible for hormone production.  The hypothalamus then releases follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone  (LH.)  These are naturally occurring hormones which trigger ovulation in a normal cycle.

Clomiphene is often prescribed when the female partner is not ovulating regularly, when IUI is going to be used, and in cases of unexplained infertility, when there is no apparent cause for infertility.  It may also be used in a clomiphene challenge test (CCT) to determine your ovarian reserve (an indication of the number of eggs remaining in the ovaries).

Estrogen Patches

Brand names:  Climara, Vivelle

Your reproductive endocrinologist may prescribe estrogen patches at a certain point in your cycle if you are having an IVF cycle.  Estrogen thickens the lining of your uterus (endometrium) so your uterus is ready to receive the transferred embryos

Gonadotropins

Brand names:  Human chorionic gonadotropins (hCG)—Ovidrel, Pregnyl; human menopausal gonadotropins (hMG)— Menopur, Repronex; recombinant human follicle-stimulating hormone (rFSH)— Bravelle, Follistim, Gonal-F

Gonadotropins are injectable fertility drugs which contain FSH, LH, or both.  They are given to help your body make the hormones needed for egg production.  They may also be used for men with low testosterone and FSH to promote sperm formation.  Gonadotropins are prescribed for women to stimulate production of multiple eggs in an IVF cycle, so a number of mature eggs may be extracted and fertilized in the lab. Sometimes they are used in IUI procedures as well.

Common names for rFSH injectables are Follistim, Bravelle and Gonal-F.  The combination medications, which are called human menopausal gonadotropins, are known as Repronex and Menopur.  The hCG drugs are used to trigger release of the eggs when they are ready.

Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH) Agonists

Brand names: Lupron, Synarel

Leuprolide, known as Lupron, and nafarelin or Synarel work by down regulating the pituitary gland and causing it to temporarily stop producing FSH and LH.  This is done to closely time and control ovulation as part of an IVF cycle.  Agonists are taken as injections for a few weeks prior to starting your IVF and are continued until hCG is administered.

Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone (GnRH) Antagonists

Brand names:  Cetrotide, Ganirelix

GnRH antagonists block the effect of GnRH on the pituitary gland, temporarily stopping production of FSH and LH.  The antagonists work almost immediately, so they don’t have to be used for as many days as GnRH agonists do.  Again, the purpose is to control ovulation as part of an IVF cycle or an IUI procedure.  This is important so you don’t ovulate too early, which could cause the procedure to be cancelled.