What are the side effects of using Clomid?
Clomid is one of the most commonly prescribed fertility medications used to help women become pregnant since the late 1960s.
After decades of research and use, it’s one of the first fertility drugs that reproductive endocrinologists turn to. But even though this medication is known to be a safe way of boosting pregnancy odds, it still has some side effects.
Many women who begin taking the drug worry about Clomid side effects on the baby should they become pregnant, or Clomid side effects after ovulation.
Here’s what you may experience if you are prescribed this medication.
Clomid side effects occur because of the body’s reactions to the medication’s anti-estrogen properties.
The most common side effects experienced by women who take Clomid are:
- Flushed skin
- Breast tenderness/discomfort
- Blurry or double vision, sensitivity to light, seeing flashes
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Abdominal or pelvic pain, pressure, tenderness or swelling caused by enlarged ovaries
- Hot flashes
- Yellow eyes or skin (jaundice)
Serious side effects experienced by women who take Clomid include:
- Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) — see What is Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS)? below for more information
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
Because Clomid can cause some discomfort — both physical and emotional — many people wonder, “How long do Clomid side effects last?”
While you may only take Clomid for a few days per cycle, mood swings and physical discomfort can last through the remainder of your cycle.
While the ups and downs associated with Clomid can be tough, know that after your cycle, you’ll probably feel like yourself again.
If you become pregnant or choose to stop taking this fertility drug, you can expect a similar result.
Generally, Clomid side effects after stopping the medication persist for a few weeks, but by the end of your cycle should be reduced or gone.
While Clomid is most often associated with female treatment, it can also be used by men to help aid fertility.
When taken by men, Clomid can help increase sperm count and movement, while also treating low testosterone levels that cause infertility.
Men who use this medication often report few to no bodily reactions, as compared to women who take it. Still, Clomid side effects in men include:
- Chest and nipple tenderness
- Mood swings and irritability
- Blurred vision (while rare, it’s important to notify your doctor to prevent vision damage)
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 supplements).
Pregnant women should not take Clomid as it’s known to cause birth defects.
Because 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 increase in size).
What is Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome (OHSS)?
Ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS) is a medical condition experienced by some women who take fertility medications such as 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 the risk of OHSS is low, it’s important to be mindful of your body’s reaction to Clomid so you can get treatment if it 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 Interactions and Contraindications
There are some cases where Clomid should not be used because it can cause unintended health situations. Clomid contraindications include:
- Use by women who are already pregnant
- People who have liver disease or any form of liver dysfunction
- Women who have unexplained or undiagnosed abnormal uterine bleeding
- Women who have ovarian cysts or enlarged ovaries
- People who have thyroid issues or conditions
In all of these cases, using Clomid can cause side effects that lead to severe health complications.
If you have any of these conditions, it’s important to inform your fertility specialist before receiving a prescription for Clomid.
In rare situations, it’s possible to have an allergic reaction to Clomid’s ingredients.
If you have a known allergy to any of the ingredients in Clomid (also known as clomiphene citrate), you should not take this medication.
Many people who are prescribed this medication wonder how to use Clomid. Unlike other fertility treatment drugs, Clomid is easy to use and requires no injections.
Clomid comes in 50-milligram tablets that are taken orally. Your doctor will likely first prescribe a low dose, which is usually one tablet per day for 5 days.
You will begin taking Clomid on the fifth day of your cycle. Clomid has the most effect on a woman’s menstrual cycle when taken consistently at the same time each day.
It’s 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 increases the risk of certain cancers.
Although Clomid cannot be “abused” in the traditional sense (such as 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 a woman or couple’s journey to conception.
In fact, premature use of Clomid can interfere with conception if taken by women who are not actually experiencing ovulation issues.
You should be properly screened before being prescribed Clomid. If you feel you have not been given the proper screening or attention, double-check with your doctor or consider getting a second opinion before starting treatment.
Because 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 whether a woman’s lack of or infrequent ovulation is a likely source of fertility issues.
Who Should Take Clomid?
Clomid is known to be a highly effective medication that can help women jumpstart or regulate ovulation. It’s often the best choice for fertility treatment patients who:
- Are ovulating irregularly
- Have irregular menstrual cycles
- Are not ovulating
- Have been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Have been trying to get pregnant for at least 6 months
Even if you fit these criteria, your doctor is the best expert in determining if Clomid will work for you.
For many women, Clomid is often prescribed as a “first shot” attempt at fertility treatment because of its effectiveness and low cost.
When Clomid is Not the Best Choice
Clomid is often prescribed as a first-round treatment for people with infertility issues.
But, there are times that Clomid should not be used because it will likely not work, or because of health complications. Clomid may not be the best choice for you if:
- You are a woman who has entered early menopause or has premature ovarian failure
- You are not ovulating or menstruating due to low body weight
- You are a man who has a blockage or other physical cause leading to infertility
- You have a Clomid contraindication such as having liver disease, ovarian cysts or thyroid issues
- You have previously had a Clomid allergic reaction or severe side effects from the medication
Your fertility specialist will be able to best determine if Clomid could work for you.
If Clomid is not an option, your doctor will be able to create a treatment plan for what therapies could work best.
What is Clomid?
Clomid, also known as clomiphene citrate or clomiphene treatment, is a commonly prescribed fertility drug that helps women ovulate more regularly.
In fact, it’s the most prescribed and most widely used of all fertility medications.
Clomid works by stimulating additional follicles and eggs in the ovaries, which means it’s often used by women who do not ovulate on their own (a condition called anovulation).
It can also help women do regularly ovulate but have trouble getting pregnant. Clomiphene treatment is very commonly used to help women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) get pregnant.
Fertility medications such as Clomid may be used on their own or in conjunction with other fertility treatments, such as IVF or artificial insemination.
How Does Clomid Work for Fertility?
Clomid is an ovulation induction medication. This means it works by causing the pituitary gland to release hormones that are essential in stimulating ovulation; Clomid “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 attach to those receptors.
This “anti-estrogen” property ignites the release of two hormones the body needs to ovulation: follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH).
FSH helps stimulate mature follicles in the ovaries, which contain eggs that are released during ovulation.
LH works to trigger the body to ovulate. Using Clomid as an ovulation induction method helps the body jumpstart the ovulation process, which can be beneficial for women who are not ovulating or are ovulating irregularly.
Clomid Pregnancy Rates
Clomid has a strong, decades-long track record of helping women get pregnant.
Research shows that around 80% of women who take Clomid will ovulate during the first cycle of its use, which increases the odds that a woman will become pregnant.
Clomid pregnancy chances are as follows:
- 50% chance of getting pregnant within six months
- 30% chance of getting pregnant during any Clomid cycle
- 15% chance for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) of getting pregnant during any Clomid cycle
After six months of use, the chances of Clomid pregnancy success drop.
So, if you have used Clomid for six cycles and have not gotten pregnant, speak with your reproductive endocrinologist to create a new game plan.
Not having success with Clomid can be another clue in the infertility diagnosis and treatment puzzle.
Clomid and Artificial Insemination
If you are having difficulty getting pregnant, your fertility specialist may recommend combining Clomid with intrauterine insemination (IUI, or artificial insemination).
Timing Clomid-induced ovulation with IUI can help sperm more easily reach a released egg.
This tactic can help increase the odds of pregnancy in situations where a woman is ovulating but it isn’t clear what is causing infertility.
In some cases, Clomid can be used in conjunction with in vitro fertilization (IVF) for a fertility treatment called “Mini IVF” or “Minimal IVF.”
With this form of fertility therapy, a patient is prescribed Clomid and low doses of a few injectable fertility medications in an effort to boost natural egg production.
From there, the patient undergoes the usual in vitro fertilization process of egg harvesting and fertilization, followed by embryo transfer.
Some of the biggest upsides to Mini IVF are that you take fewer injectable medications and hormones, and undergo a form of treatment that is more cost-effective than traditional IVF.
While pregnancy rates with Mini IVF are often lower than traditional IVF, it’s still a good option for women who are ovulating and want to use their own eggs.
Clomid and Multiple Births
Like other fertility treatments, Clomid does increase the risk of having twins or multiples.
Because Clomid works as an ovulation stimulator, the chances of your body releasing more than one egg during ovulation increase.
So-called “Clomid twins” occur in 5 to 8% of pregnancies where the medication is used, though triplets are less common.
Clomid twins are generally fraternal twins because the body releases two separate eggs that are fertilized, as opposed to one egg that splits and develops into two embryos.
Timing Intercourse After Clomid Treatment
When taking Clomid, your doctor will be able to help determine the best times to have sex to get pregnant.
In most cases, ovulation with Clomid occurs between 7 and 10 days after the last dose.
Because sperm can survive for up to 5 days, your doctor may recommend you begin timing intercourse about 5 days before your fertile window, having sex every other day.
And because a released egg only survives about 24 hours after leaving the ovaries, you should also plan to time sex for the estimated day of and after ovulation.
If you’re watching for signs of ovulation after taking Clomid, you should look for:
- Increased libido or interest in sex
- Breast tenderness
- Abdominal cramps or ovulation pain
- Sticky, wet cervical mucus (though many women report that Clomid causes vaginal dryness that makes tracking cervical mucus more difficult)
- A positive ovulation predictor kit at least 3 days after your last dose of Clomid
You may or may not have any signs of ovulation after taking Clomid, and for this reason, it’s important to know your fertile window and time sex accordingly.
Waiting for signs that your body may not exhibit means you could miss your fertile window altogether.
If you’re unsure of precisely when to time sex for ovulation with Clomid, speak with your reproductive endocrinologist to create a plan.
How Many Rounds of Clomid Does It Take To Get Pregnant?
Most women have at least a 30% chance of getting pregnant during any cycle in which they use Clomid.
And on average, 50% of women who use Clomid become pregnant within six months.
While the chances of pregnancy increase with each month that you take Clomid, you should know that there is no guarantee that Clomid will work for you.
Every woman has differing levels of success with the medication, which is often more effective than other kinds of ovulation boosting oral medications.
Because fertility treatment is heavily specialized based on your needs, the number of times you may need to use Clomid is variable.
If you’ve successfully used Clomid to previously get pregnant, be aware that you may have differing levels of success than your previous experience.
However, because your body responded well to the medication, it’s possible that you may have good chances using Clomid to become pregnant again.
How Many Cycles of Clomid Should Be Tried Before Moving on to Other Treatment Options?
Generally, if you do not become pregnant within three cycles of using Clomid, your reproductive specialist will consider upping the medication’s dosage, while taking note of whether or not you are successfully ovulating.
In most cases, your fertility specialist will recommend only using Clomid for up to six cycles.
After six cycles, the chance of less-desirable health side effects increases, while the probability of successful pregnancy decreases.
Prior to reaching the sixth Clomid cycle, your doctor may recommend intrauterine insemination (IUI) to help sperm reach a released egg more easily.
Combining Clomid with human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) may also help increase the chances of pregnancy.
That’s because hCG can help the body ovulate and release an egg within 36 hours, which can help with timing sex or IUI.
If you don’t become pregnant within six Clomid cycles, your doctor can use this information to hone in on the cause of infertility, while also creating a treatment plan that may help you get pregnant.