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5 reasons why you should think twice before using fertility drugs

Here are the possible complications of ovulation-inducing or fertility drugs.

With ovulation-inducing drugs being easily available, most women opt for it without even consulting a doctor, which is a very dangerous practice. Although commonly used to treat infertility and help you get pregnant, here s what you need to know about these drugs before you plan to take it.

This is how ovulation inducing drugs work

Ovulation is a process wherein a single mature egg is released from the ovaries every month. When the egg is not fertilised, it leads to menstrual bleeding, indicating that ovulation is the basis of pregnancy. Ovulation inducing drugs, also known as fertility drugs, stimulate the ovaries to ovulate (produce a healthy egg) in women with menstrual irregularities or PCOS. In the case of assisted pregnancies, these drugs are used to increase the number of eggs that reach maturity in a single cycle, to increase your chances of getting pregnant. The drugs contain follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and/or Luteinising hormone (LH), which help in the ovulation process.

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Ovulation inducing drugs currently used are clomiphene citrate, leuprolide and synthetic gonadotropin (FSH/LH) Inhibitor and hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin). However, you should never take these drugs without your doctor s prescription as these are known to increase your risk of various health complications like

1. Ovarian hyperstimulation: In rare cases, these drugs over-stimulate the ovaries to produce mature eggs, which cause swelling of ovaries [1]. This causes fluid from the ovaries to leak to the pelvic area and abdominal cavity, a condition known as ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). The excess secretion of estradiol can lead to severe health complications and require hospitalisation.

2. Multiple pregnancies: The use of ovulation inducing drugs increases the number of eggs that are released and thus, increases your chance of multiple pregnancies [2]. Multiple pregnancies increase your risk of premature delivery, says Dr Sushma Malik, Professor, Incharge Neonatology, Department of Paediatrics, Nair Hospital, Mumbai. Here are other factors that increase your risk of delivering a premature baby.

3. Premature ovarian failure: According toDr Meenakshi Ahuja, Senior Consultant- Obstetrics and Gynecology, Apollo Cradle, Delhi, 'Every female has a predetermined number of eggs which mature once she reaches menarche, the start of menstruation. With the use of ovulation inducing drugs, multiple eggs are released every month, which cause depletion in the number of eggs, leading to premature ovarian failure.'

4. Premature menopause: A woman reaches menopause around the age of 50, but in case of premature menopause, it occurs between 42 - 27 years of age. This is because, ovulation-inducing drugs are known to cause hormonal disturbance. It also stimulates the ovaries for producing excessive eggs, which causes the eggs to exhaust soon and lead to premature menopause. Read more on how fertility drugs can cause premature menopause.

5. Cancer: A study conducted on women aged 35-54 years to assess the efficacy of infertility and use of ovulation-inducing drugs showed that a subset of nulliparous*women are at an increased risk of ovarian cancer [3]. Although the exact cause is still not clear, it is wise to discuss with your doctor about the complications that might result from the use of these drugs.

*A nulliparous woman is a woman who has never sustained a pregnancy beyond 20 weeks.

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References:

  1. Tucker, K. E. (1996, November). Reproductive toxicity of ovulation induction. In Seminars in reproductive endocrinology (Vol. 14, No. 4, pp. 345-353).
  2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Contribution of assisted reproductive technology and ovulation-inducing drugs to triplet and higher-order multiple births--United States, 1980-1997. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep. 2000 Jun 23;49(24):535-8. PubMed PMID: 10923854
  3. Rossing MA, Tang MT, Flagg EW, Weiss LK, Wicklund KG. A case-control study of ovarian cancer in relation to infertility and the use of ovulation-inducing drugs. Am J Epidemiol. 2004 Dec 1;160(11):1070-8. PubMed PMID: 15561986.


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