What is clomid?
Clomid is a commonly prescribed fertility drug that helps a woman ovulate more regularly. In fact, it is the most prescribed and most widely used of all fertility medications. It’s prescribed to woman who do not ovulate on their own (anovulation). For woman who ovulate on their own without medication, but have trouble getting pregnant, Clomid may be prescribed to stimulate additional follicles and eggs in the ovaries. Clomid is very commonly used to help women with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) get pregnant.
Fertility medications like Clomid may be used on their own or in conjunction with other fertility treatments, such as IVF or artificial insemination.
How does Clomid work?
Clomid works by causing the pituitary gland to release hormones that are essential in stimulating ovulation. It “tricks” the brain into believing estrogen levels in the body are low. The drug does so by latching onto estrogen receptors in the brain and blocking estrogen’s ability to latch on to those receptors. This “anti-estrogen” property ignites the release of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), the hormone most involved in the stimulation of mature follicles, which contain eggs, in the ovaries.
What are the side effects of using Clomid?
It is very common to experience side effects when taking Clomid. These side effects occur because of the body’s reactions to Clomid’s anti-estrogen properties.
The most common side effects experienced by woman who take Clomid are:
- Flushed skin
- Breast tenderness/discomfort
- Blurry or double vision, sensitivity to light, seeing flashes
- Abnormal vaginal/uterine bleeding
- Abdominal or pelvic pain, pressure, tenderness or swelling cause by enlarged ovaries
- Hot flashes
- Yellow eyes or skin (jaundice)
Serious side effects experienced by woman who take Clomid are:
- Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) (see What is Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS)? below for more information)
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Clomid can interact with other drugs, which means it’s important that your doctor be aware of all medications you are taking (prescribed, over the counter and herbal). Pregnant woman should not take Clomid as it is known to cause birth defects. There is no conclusive evidence as to whether or not Clomid passes through breast milk. You should consult your physician before taking Clomid while breastfeeding. Women with liver disease should also avoid using Clomid as well as those with ovarian cysts (Clomid can cause these to grow larger).
What is Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS)?
Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) is a medical condition experienced by some women who take fertility medications like Clomid. Many OHSS cases are mild, but there are rare occasions where the condition is severe. In these instances, OHSS can lead to serious illness or even death. While this is rare, it is important be mindful of your body’s reaction to Clomid so you can get treatment if OHSS occurs.
The symptoms associated with OHSS include enlarged ovaries, abdominal swelling, serious gastrointestinal issues, shortness of breath, infrequent urination and fluid in the lungs. You should consult your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms.
Clomid and multiple births
Your chances of having a multiple birth increase when taking Clomid. About 5% of women who use Clomid will have twins. Triplets are less common, but do happen.
Clomid comes in 50-milligram tablets that are taken orally. Your doctor will likely start you on a low dose (one tablet) for five days. You will begin taking Clomid on the fifth day of your ovulation cycle (as determined with the help of your physician) and be taken as close to the same time each day as possible.
It is important to be very familiar with your ovulation cycle before beginning Clomid so that the dosage begins at the optimal time for success. Long term use of Clomid (more than six cycles) is not recommended because it can lead to cancer risks.
Although Clomid cannot be “abused” in the traditional since (e.g. like opioids), it may be prematurely prescribed before identifying the root fertility issues a couple is experiencing. Clomid can be hard on the body and should not be taken without fully vetting the need for the drug in the couple’s journey to conception.
You must get properly screened before being prescribed Clomid. If you feel you have not been given the proper screening, double check with your doctor or consider getting a second opinion before starting treatment.
Male infertility issues account for almost 30% of infertility cases. Both parties should receive a full fertility workup. Even if no male infertility is found, there are tests and screens to more conclusively show that a woman’s lack of or infrequent ovulation is a likely source of fertility issues.
Proper screening is important because not only is Clomid hard on the body, but it can actually interfere with conception if taken by women who are not actually experiencing ovulation issues.