How Long Do Fertility Drug Cycles Take?

Fertility drugs, whether oral or injectable, often form a key part of fertility treatment. Depending on the drug, taking fertility drugs can be a big commitment that continues for a significant amount of time. Below, we will take a look at how long different fertility drug cycles may take.
Clomid Drug Cycle

Clomid is an oral medication that stimulates the release of hormones that contribute to ovulation. Clomid’s advantage is that it can be taken orally and is not as intensive, or as costly, as injectable medications. Clomid is effective for many women, and patients are most likely to get pregnant in the first 3-4 cycles. Clomid should generally not be continued beyond that time.

In most cases, Clomid is started on Day 3 or 5 of the menstrual cycle and continues for five days. The physician may increase the dose of Clomid until it is sufficient to produce ovulation.

Gonadotropin Fertility Drug Cycles

Gonadotropins are hormones that directly stimulate the production of egg follicles in the ovaries. Gonadotropins naturally occur in the human body, and are produced by the pituitary gland. There are two types of gonadotropins: luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), both of which are involved in the development of egg follicles. In addition, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is used to trigger the ovulation of mature egg follicles.

For IVF, and sometimes for IUI or timed sex, gonadotropin medications are used to stimulate ovulation. Examples include Bravelle, Repronex, Menopur, Gonal-F, and Follistim. These medications are injected directly into the body, usually subcutaneously (under the skin, but not in the muscle) because they cannot survive the digestive tract in large amounts.

There are several steps in any treatment cycle: ovulation induction, monitoring the cycle, triggering ovulation, and testing for pregnancy. The treatment cycle varies somewhat depending on whether the medication is used along with IUI or IVF.

In both cases, a baseline sonogram and blood tests are taken on Day 2 or 3 of the cycle, and gonadotropin medication begins. For 7 to 14 days, ovarian stimulation continues. The patient comes to the office every 2-3 days for blood tests and sonograms. When the egg follicles are mature, an injection of hCG is given to stimulate ovulation. If IUI is being performed, insemination can be scheduled for that time. If IVF is being performed, the eggs will be retrieved at that time, then fertilized in the laboratory. In 3-5 days, the embryos are transferred to the uterus.

There is a waiting period after insemination or embryo transfer, before it is possible to determine whether pregnancy has occurred. After 1-2 weeks, the doctor will test for pregnancy using a blood test, which is the most precise method.

As with Clomid, it often takes couples more than one treatment cycle to get pregnant. The majority of couples who get pregnant do so within 4-5 cycles, but it can take a longer or shorter period of time.

Drug Side Effects 

When going through fertility drug cycles, it is important to understand the potential side effects that may occur. Many women experience mild side effects such as breast tenderness and mood swings. Possible complications from fertility drugs include:

  • Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) – 1-5% of women experience this condition, in which the ovaries become enlarged. If OHSS becomes severe, the patient may develop ascites (fluid in the abdominal cavity), blood clots, or electrolyte imbalance. OHSS is most common with hCG administration.
  • Multiple gestation – Twins, triplets, and higher order multiples are much more likely with fertility drug cycles. 15% of fertility drug patients experience multiple gestation but this varies based on age and type of treatment.
  • Ectopic pregnancy – In 1-3% of patients, an embryo may implant into the fallopian tubes, resulting in ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancies represent a serious threat if they are allowed to continue, and must be treated early on.
  • Ovarian torsion – Less than 1% of patients experience this problem.

If you are interested in fertility treatment, Dr. Randy Morris would be happy to hear from you. To schedule your consultation today, please click below and enter your information or call (630) 357-6540.

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