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Understanding Fertility Problems: Improving Ovulation with Medicine

A woman’s fertility hinges on her ability to ovulate. This is when an egg is released from an ovary. If you are not ovulating, you may be given hormone medicine to help. Read below to find out how these work.

How hormone medicine can help

Hormones are chemicals that your body makes naturally. Each type of hormone has its own function. In some cases, hormones are used for assisted reproductive treatment (ART). Hormone medicine can help:

  • Make more eggs. Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) causes the ovaries to make more mature eggs each month. Normally one egg matures each month. Note that this does not make a woman run out of eggs faster.

  • Trigger ovulation. Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is used to cause ovulation. This can help by controlling the timing of when an egg can be fertilized after sex. It may also be used for ART.

  • Adjust levels of other hormones. To help you ovulate, medicine may be prescribed to treat:

    • Anovulation or oligovulation. This is when you don't ovulate or don't ovulate regularly.

    • High levels of the hormone prolactin. This can stop ovulation from happening.

    • An imbalance of thyroid hormone levels. This can cause problems with fertility. It can also cause miscarriage.

Types of hormone medicine

This chart shows some hormone medicines that can help with fertility. Talk with your doctor about how they work. Be sure you know how and when to use them. You should be aware of the possible side effects. Some medicines carry a small but serious risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). This needs prompt treatment.


How it works

How it is taken

Possible side effects

Clomiphene citrate

Stimulates egg development


Hot flashes, blurred vision, breast tenderness, nausea, mood swings, ovarian cysts, and increased chances of having twins

Follicle stimulating hormone or FSH

Stimulates the ovaries to produce more mature eggs


Increased chance of multiple births. Small but serious risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome

Human menopausal gonadotropin or hMG

Stimulates egg development


Increased chance of multiple births. Small but serious risk of ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome

Human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG

Triggers ovulation


May aggravate enlarged ovaries when combined with hMG or FSH medications

Dopamine agonists

Decreases prolactin, a hormone that can prevent ovulation


Nausea, nasal stuffiness, dizziness, and headache


Restores thyroid hormones to a normal level


Nervousness, irritability, headache, insomnia, diarrhea, weight loss, and changes in menstruation


Helps the endometrium become ready and maintain a pregnancy

Pills, vaginal cream

Breast tenderness, mood swings

Note: This chart is not a complete list. It does not imply endorsement of any type or brand. It does not show every side effect or reaction. It does not show every precaution or interaction. Only your doctor can recommend or prescribe these types of medicine.


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