Medication is an essential piece in the in vitro fertilization (IVF) process. These prescriptions are used to stimulate the ovaries, as well as prepare the uterus for pregnancy. Usually, they involve injections and oral medications. In this article, we’re going to take a more in-depth look at the IVF medications list, schedule, potential side effects, and more.
Egg Retrieval Medications
The egg retrieval process actually starts by suppressing ovulation. This ensures the eggs aren’t released before egg retrieval. It also increases the chances that the woman will produce fertile, developed eggs. After the suppression phase, medications are used to bring the eggs to full maturity, where your fertility team will then retrieve the eggs for the IVF process. So, let’s take a closer look at the medications involved in this initial phase.
Ideally, for IVF to be successful, your fertility team will want to ensure they retrieve as many high-quality, mature eggs as possible. This is why ovulation is first suppressed.
Birth Control Before IVF
Taking birth control before IVF might sound counter-intuitive. However, there are many reasons your doctor or fertility team may prescribe or recommend this. First, birth control may actually help the ovaries work better alongside ovarian stimulation medication. Second, birth control allows your fertility team to schedule your cycle. This creates convenience. Typically, birth control is taken starting on the third day of a woman’s cycle.
GnRH Injection (Gonadotropin-releasing hormone)
GnRH is another medication that helps delay ovulation. Often, this injection is prescribed alongside FSH or hCG. Similar to taking birth control beforehand, this increases the chances of the woman producing fertile eggs for the egg retrieval process, while also preventing premature ovulation. Usually, this medication is taken for two weeks.
Ovarian Stimulation Injections
The following two injections help stimulate the ovaries, increasing estrogen levels and the development of a woman’s follicles.
The gonadotropin injection contains follicle-stimulating hormone (FH), luteinizing hormone (LH) or a combination of the two. Women undergoing IVF take or inject this medication for seven to 12 days. During this time, your fertility team monitors estrogen levels and follicle size.
FSH Injection (follicle-stimulating hormone)
The follicle-stimulating hormone encourages the growth and development of a woman’s eggs. Usually, this is taken in combination with the gonadotropin injection.
Trigger Shot in IVF
Next up in the IVF process is the trigger shot. This helps with the final stage of egg maturation, as well as stimulates the release of the eggs. This injection is typically done about 36 hours before the egg retrieval is performed, and it involves the Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) injection.
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) Injection
The Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) is naturally produced during pregnancy. It actually has a very similar function to LH, the luteinizing hormone. In the menstrual cycle, LH triggers the release of an egg from the ovaries. This preps a woman’s body for egg retrieval.
Embryo Implantation Medication
After the egg retrieval process, laboratory procedures take over. In a specially designed IVF lab, the sperm and egg are combined to create an embryo. This embryo is then transferred to the woman’s uterus with the hopes that implantation and conception will take place. Yet, before this happens, the woman takes progesterone to prepare the body and uterus for pregnancy.
Progesterone in IVF
At this stage in the IVF process, the woman begins taking progesterone. This often starts the night before the egg retrieval and is usually continued until the pregnancy test. Progesterone helps prepare the uterine lining for implantation. If implantation and conception occurs, usually, progesterone is continued until about 12 weeks into pregnancy.
IVF Injections Side Effects
While most side effects of IVF medication are very short-term, they can vary from person to person. Although very rare, one of the biggest risks of IVF injections is Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, which is discussed in the sections below.
Bruising and Soreness from IVF Injections
The most common IVF injections side effects are bruising and soreness at the site of injection. These usually go away within a few days to a week after the injections have been completed.
At the same time, there are other mild side effects. These may include:
- Mood swings
- Stomach pains
- Hot flashes
- Breast soreness
- Increased urination
- Weight gain
- Vaginal dryness
Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome
Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) happens when a woman’s body has an overactive response to the hormone injections. Many of these hormones are taken for the purpose of ovarian stimulation. Yet, when this condition happens, the ovaries can become swollen and painful. Usually, this condition improves on its own. However, severe cases require hospitalization. Note that this condition is quite rare (only 1 or 2 percent of patients). Careful monitoring by your medical team, as well as a personalized fertility medication schedule, greatly decreases any risk.
At ELITE IVF, our team is passionate about helping each individual or couple’s baby dreams come true. If you have questions or wish to get your journey started, contact us today via our online form to schedule your free phone consultation.