Fertility Treatment Side Effects and How to Cope with Them
Donna Young of Falls Church, Virginia, didn’t get pregnant with twins or triplets when she took Clomid in 2003, but says she experienced “very strong highs and very strong lows.” She laughs, “You’re in super-PMS mode!” How did Young cope? “Does chocolate ice cream count as a coping mechanism?” she asks. “I pampered myself a bit more.”
According to Dr. Eblen, about 2 percent of patients taking Clomid experience visual disturbances like seeing spots and streaks, a potentially serious problem that requires an immediate call to the doctor.
Lupron is an injected drug used in the early stages of in vitro fertilization cycles to decrease a woman’s production of her own naturally occurring reproductive hormones, which sends her body into a pseudo-menopausal state. And like women in menopause, patients sometimes experience hot flashes, vaginal dryness, insomnia, and headaches. Like Clomid, Lupron rapidly decreases a person’s estrogen levels and can cause the same uber-grouchiness. In my case, Lupron didn’t make me feel sad or weepy, it made me feel like punching everyone who got in my way. “If someone is feeling depressed and angry because they’re infertile, the drug might accentuate those feelings,” says Dr. Givens. Donna Young agrees: “It’s hard to determine if it’s the drugs or the process that’s making you feel grumpy.”
The cure? Understanding that these feelings are normal and temporary. Dr. Christopher Williams, medical director and co-director of the in vitro fertilization program at the Reproductive Medicine and Surgery Center of Virginia in Charlottesville, and author of The Fastest Way To Get Pregnant Naturally, says, “Irritability is a common thing. I tell people to be prepared for it. If you’re insightful, you understand what’s happening.” He recommends extra-strength Tylenol (acetaminophen) to combat the headaches, but cautions patients to avoid Advil or Motrin (ibuprofen). “They can affect implantation and early pregnancy,” he explains.
Follicle Stimulation Hormone—Expanding Ovaries and Waistlines
I like to refer to follicle stimulating hormones (FSH) as henhouse drugs because their sole purpose is to help a woman’s body release as many eggs as possible in a single month. The other reason for this nickname is that once you start injecting FSH, your body begins to resemble a fat brood hen—squat and round.
When I went through IVF, my belly expanded so rapidly that I had to go out and buy larger clothes for work—lots of adjustable wrap skirts and softer, flowing pants with long jackets to hide my new bulge. “Bloating, weight gain, and mood swings are the most common reactions to FSH,” says Dr. Wisot. He attributes the mood swings to the body’s rapid estrogen rise, triggered by the medication. “When you make an egg on your own you’ll have an estrogen level of 200, but on FSH, it will be up in the thousands,” he explains.
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