Have you ever read the warning label on a bottle of baby aspirin? The list of potential side effects will make your toes curl: dizziness, ringing in the ears, and gastrointestinal bleeding to name a few. Is it any wonder that legions of women considering assisted fertility solutions are cautious when they ponder the idea of injecting bottled hormones into their body in hopes of making a baby?
As a woman who's been there and injected that, take my advice and chill out, because it's really not that big a deal. Although I experienced the full gamut of assisted reproduction side effects, everything from weight gain and water retention to pelvic pain and peevishness (which is a polite way to say "pissed offishness"), I can honestly say that the discomfort was temporary, and the result, two gorgeous healthy daughters, was worth every needle prick and extra pound.
It also helps to keep in mind that every body is different and each patient's drug protocol is unique, so no two women will have the same experience. At one end of the spectrum are those strange and amazing ladies like Robin Taylor of Atlanta who actually feel better once they start taking fertility meds. "When I was on the hormones, I felt more balanced," she says. "I was a little bloated after my egg retrieval procedure, but that was my only issue." On the other end are those unfortunate few who are so miserable that they stop treatment before the first pregnancy attempt. Dr. Abby Eblen, a reproductive endocrinologist at Nashville Fertility Center, says, "Maybe three or four times a year a patient says, 'I can't do this' and cancels her cycle." But according to experts like Dr. Carolyn Givens, reproductive endocrinologist at Pacific Fertility Center in San Francisco, the overwhelming majority of women fall somewhere in between. "I always ask my patients how they're feeling and most say, 'I was expecting so much worse,'" she says.
So what's all the hype about? And what sorts of side effects can a woman expect to experience from her fertility treatments?
Clomid—Moodiness and Multiples
Clomid is an anti-estrogen drug used to stimulate the ovaries to produce mature eggs, and it's often the first choice for women who don't ovulate regularly. "Lots of people feel lousy on Clomid. We get a lot of complaints about feeling moody and out of sorts," says Dr. Arthur Wisot, executive director of Reproductive Partners Medical Group, which has offices throughout Southern California, and author of Conceptions & Misconceptions: The Informed Consumer's Guide Through the Maze of In Vitro Fertilization and Other Assisted Reproduction Techniques. Most women only take Clomid for a few weeks and weather the emotional storms. But one of Clomid's most notable side effects is permanent! "The biggest side effect is multiple births," says Dr. Wisot.