Drugs which can be used to encourage ovulation include Clomiphene, which works by inhibiting the effects of estrogen, and a class of drugs called gonadotropins, which mimic the hormones which stimulate the gonads.
Clomiphene, also known as Serophene, Clomid, and Milophene, is used to increase ovulation. It works by inhibiting the effects of estrogen. That might sound like a bizarre way to increase ovulation, but it makes sense. The pituitary gland is tricked into believing that there is not much estrogen in the body. The pituitary responds by increasing the levels of female hormones, which encourages ovulation.
Treatment with Clomiphene usually takes place for only a few days just long enough to stimulate ovulation. After that it is safe to stop taking it, thus reducing the severity of the side-effects. Clomiphene side-effects are rarely serious or long-lasting: nausea, mood swings and pain are not uncommon, but these will go away once you stop taking Clomiphene.
Incidentally, you might sometimes come across media reports of Clomiphene being used by body-builders. They do this because, after taking various steroids, they end up with too much estrogen in their bodies, causing unpleasant effects like the growth of breasts on men.
Gonadotropins extracted or synthesized
The most powerful ovulation-stimulating drugs are those which are identical to the body’s own hormones. Hormones which affect the gonads, whether natural or synthetic, are given the name gonadotropins.
Natural gonadotropins can be extracted by filtering the urine of menstruating women, which contains large doses of these hormones. This gives us drugs such as Humegon (also known as Pergonal), which is not a synthetic chemical, but rather a cocktail of genuine human hormones. Humegon is taken by injection.
Alternatively, genetic engineering has now made it possible to create Follicle-Stimulating Hormone in the laboratory.
This is marketed under the names Puregon and Gonal-F. It is very successful in stimulating ovulation in fact, its biggest side-effect is being too successful. Even when special precautions are taken, multiple pregnancies are a real risk.
Drug treatment of endometriosis
If endometriosis is suspected to be taking place, drugs can be used to alleviate its effects, and so to counter infertility. The usual approach is to use drugs which prevent menstruation. This stops the creation of more inflamed tissue.
The contraceptive pill is commonly used for this purpose. Another drug which achieves the same effect is Danazol, also known as Danocrine. This works by stopping the brain from creating Follicle-Stimulating Hormone, which in turn stalls the cycle of ovulation.