Fertility drugs are given to help women who don't ovulate perfectly on their own. They are also given to women who already ovulate to help them super-ovulate, meaning increase the number of eggs released (better quantity) and to improve the chances that the eggs will successfully become a baby (better quality).
The two main classes of ovulation medications work on the principle of improving FSH activity. FSH (Follicle-Stimulating Hormone) is a natural substance produced in the brain (actually, from the pituitary gland) which communicates with the ovaries to persuade the ovaries to develop and mature an egg or many eggs.
With the goal being to increase the strength of FSH that is talking to the ovaries, there are two ways to do it. We can either help people make more FSH on their own or to actually give them FSH. This is like helping someone who doesn't have enough money by either giving them tips on how to make more money or by just giving them a large amount of money. One way is gentler and easier, the other way is more direct and much more powerful.
CLOMIPHENE CITRATE: Taken by mouth in pill form. This is a gentler medication that can help a woman produce more FSH on her own. Brand names in the US include Clomid and Serophene.
INJECTABLE GONADOTROPINS: These are actual injectable forms of purified FSH. Brand names in the US include Bravelle, Follistim, Gonal-F, Menopur, Pergonal and Repronex.
hCG: hCG comes in an injectable form. While the above two classes of drugs work to help the eggs develop and grow, hCG does something entirely different. It works to trigger the follicles to burst (ovulate) and release their eggs. So the sequence is take clomphene citrate or injectable gonadotropins first. And then when they have done their job, take hCG to finish the ovulation process.
Watch for more detailed information regarding these drugs in future posts.