Fertility Treatment Drugs- How They Work


Most women who are trying to conceive are familiar with at least a couple of different fertility drugs. However, most women don’t really completely and fully understand how these drugs work. Today we are going to explore and try to explain how some of the most popular fertility drugs actually work to help women conceive.

1. Clomid

Clomid is by far the most popular fertility drug on the market today. It is an oral medication, which means it is taken by mouth. It is a medication that has been used for more than 25 years with great success in stimulating ovulation in women.

Clomid is helpful for women who have irregular ovulation, unexplained infertility, or other ovulation related issues. It works by blocking estrogen receptors at the hypothalamus, which is an important “hormonal control center” for the body.


When this happens, the hypothalamus is stimulated to release follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH). These are the naturally occurring ovarian stimulants, which prompt ovulation in a normal cycle.

2. Metformin

Another oral medication that is sometimes used for fertility reasons is Metformin. However, using Metformin for fertility is considered an “off label” use.

This is because the drug is usually used to help diabetes patients manage their insulin levels. Metformin is occasionally used to treat women with fertility issues related to PCOS, or PolyCystic Ovarian Syndrome.


Women with PCOS usually have excess levels of insulin, and this can lead to higher levels of androgens, or male hormones, in the body. Metformin, and other insulin-sensitizing medications, help to lower the excess levels of insulin in the body.

3. Gonadotropins

Gonadotropins are injectable fertility drugs that contain hormones, usually either FSH or LH. Two natural gonadotropins are hormones secreted each month cycle from the pituitary gland in the brain during a woman’s menstrual cycle.

These well-known hormones are luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), whose purpose is to stimulate the ovaries to produce eggs. Elevated blood levels of FSH indicate that the ovary is maturing.

FSH – Follicle-Stimulating-Hormone-and LH

When an egg is mature, there is a surge in LH levels, which triggers ovulation – the release of an egg into the fallopian tubes. When a woman has problems with her LH or FSH levels, gonadotropins can be used to help regulate those levels and help the body do what it is supposed to do.

These drugs are only available as injections since they are inactivated by the instestinal tract. Gonadotropins are usually used in conjunction with IUI or IVF therapy.

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Dr. Karen Leham is double board-certified in Obstetrics and Gynecology and in Reproductive Endocronology and Infertility. Dr. Leham completed her residency at Loyola University, followed by a fellowship at UCLA.

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