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Questions, Information, and Tips About Fertility Medication

Doctors generally prescribe fertility drugs to women who are having trouble ovulating or to those undergoing an assisted reproductive technology procedure, such as in vitro fertilization. But though these potent drugs have helped many couples achieve pregnancy, they need to be taken carefully and correctly, and may even pose some health risks. Before beginning any course of treatment, communicate your questions and concerns to your doctor -- and make sure they're addressed thoroughly.

Here are some general questions to begin with:

  • What dosage of the medication will I take each day, and for how long?
  • Will the dosage vary with each menstrual cycle?
  • What are the potential risks (including multiple births) and side effects?
  • Should the medication be taken on a full or an empty stomach?
  • If the medication is injected, how much diluent (a diluting agent) do I need to use?
  • Is there a generic version of the drug I can use (such as clomiphene citrate for Clomid or Serophene, for example)? What are the pros and cons of each?
  • How much will the treatment cost?
  • In your experience, what are our chances of conceiving?

Before taking any medication, be sure to tell your doctor if you have a family history of breast or ovarian cancer so that he or she can inform you of any possible risks. Also tell your doctor if you're taking any prescription medications, and ask whether this should pose a problem.

If you decide to go ahead with treatment, follow these important tips:

  • Always check the expiration date before using a medication.
  • Keep fertility drugs away from extreme heat, cold, light, or moisture, as this can affect their potency. Always ask your doctor where and how the drug should be stored.
  • If you miss a dose of medication, don't double up on the next dose unless your doctor says it's okay.
  • If you're using an injected medication, ask the doctor or nurse to give you a demonstration of the proper injection technique. Some drugs can be injected just under the skin (via a subcutaneous injection), while others must be injected into a muscle (through an intramuscular injection).
  • If you're receiving an intramuscular injection, have your partner use the upper, outer quadrant of your buttock to avoid irritating the sciatic nerve.
  • To avoid discomfort, alternate sides of the buttocks each time you receive an injection. (For instance, use the right buttock, then the left one, etc.) If an injection site is tender and sore, avoid that area for several days.
  • If you see any red streaks around an injection site, tell your doctor right away. You may have a localized inflammation.
  • Also tell your doctor about any side effects you experience. Symptoms may range from nausea, breast tenderness, and dizziness to depression, "hot flashes," and enlarged ovaries.

Sources: The Fertility Sourcebook by M. Sara Rosenthal; The Couple's Guide to Fertility by Gary S. Berger, MD, Marc Goldstein, MD, and Mark Fuerst (Broadway Books, 2001); RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association

All content here, including advice from doctors and other health professionals, should be considered as opinion only. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others