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Fertility Drug Side Effects Range from Mild to Serious

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Fertility meds may have side effects ranging from mild discomfort to more serious conditions that could lead to hospitalization. Although many patients express concern about an increased risk of breast and ovarian cancer with the use of fertility drugs, recent studies on IVF and cancer have put that fear to rest somewhat.

Clomiphene Citrate

Clomiphene citrate can lead to superovulation, which increases the chance of multiples: twins, triplets, or more. Side effects may include: hot flashes, abdominal discomfort, blurred vision, reversible ovarian enlargement, cyst formation, thick cervical mucus that sperm cannot travel through, abdominal uterine bleeding, nausea and/or vomiting. Rare side effects may include: reversible alopecia (hair loss) and ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome. An early 1990s study suggested that 12 or more cycles of clomiphene increased the risk of ovarian tumors; however, more recent studies have found no link between clomiphene and ovarian cancer.


Gonadotropins, including FSH, hMG and hCG, may cause side effects such as tenderness, infection, blood blisters, and swelling or bruising at the injection site. There is also the risk of ovarian hyperstimulation, a condition in which the patient’s ovaries become enlarged and tender, and may involve abdominal pain and fluid build-up within the abdomen. Extreme cases may require hospitalization. These drugs also increase the chances of multiple pregnancy.

Bromocriptine and Cabergoline

Bromocriptine and cabergoline may cause side effects such as dizziness and upset stomach.


Progesterone side effects can vary according to the way it is administered. Oral progesterone may cause dizziness and sleepiness. Progesterone suppositories may be messy and uncomfortable, and the bioadhesive gel can cause vaginal irritation. Synthetic progesterone is not considered safe during pregnancy, and may increase the risk of birth defects.


Aspirin therapy is being tested for side effects. Long-term use is not recommended because it may actually interfere with ovulation by preventing a woman’s eggs from being released from their follicles.


Heparin therapy can cause back pain, stomach pain and skin rash. More severe complications include bone loss that can lead to osteoporosis, excessive bleeding, including nosebleeds, eye bleeds and heavy menstrual periods, and hair loss.