Fertility medications are very important when it comes to trying to get pregnant with the help of In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), and in most cases, the IVF process isn’t successful without the steroids, hormones, and antibiotics a doctor may prescribe you.
When it comes to understanding IVF medications, there’s a lot to take in — from the different kinds of medication options, to how you should take them, to how you can cover the cost. If you’re just starting out on your IVF journey and are unsure where to begin when it comes to IVF medications, keep reading for more information on the most commonly asked questions about these drugs.
What are the most commonly prescribed IVF medications? What side effects can I expect?
There is a handful of IVF medications that a doctor may prescribe you based on what your body may need in preparation of ovulation, egg retrieval, and embryo implantation. The following IVF medications are the most commonly prescribed medicines. Like all medications, IVF meds do have some side effects, though what you may experience greatly depends on what kind of drugs you are prescribed.
- Antibiotics: Many oral antibiotics are prescribed following invasive IVF procedures, such as egg retrieval. These allow the body to stave off infection so as to prevent inflammation and complications.
- Birth control pills: For women with irregular fertility cycles, or with ovulation difficulties, birth control pills are often prescribed. These allow you to regulate your cycle so that your body is on track and ready for the IVF process. Common side effects of birth control pills include nausea, breast tenderness, headaches, weight gain, and menstrual spotting. There are countless brands of birth control pills, so your doctor will determine the best option for you.
- Clomiphene citrate: This medication is often prescribed to help the pituitary gland secrete more follicle stimulating hormone (FSH). Commonly known as Clomid or Serophene, this medication is often prescribed orally, often for a maximum of six months. Potential side effects include hot flashes, nausea, breast tenderness, mood swings, headaches, pelvic discomfort, and ovarian cysts.
- Follicle stimulating hormone (FSH): This injection helps stimulate the growth of follicles in the ovaries, and is often prescribed under the brand names Bravelle, Follistim, or Gonal-F. Common side effects include mood swings, abdominal pain, bloating, and rash at the injection site.
- GnRH Agonists: This kind of medication can be administered through a nasal spray (Synarel) or through injections (Lupron or Zoladex), with the goal of helping the body produce more eggs from the follicles. They also help prevent hormone surges that cause an IVF cycle to fail. Common side effects include insomnia, hot flashes, mood swings, and headaches.
- GnRH Antagonists: Different from GnRH Agonists, these medications — often prescribed under the names Ganirelix, Cetrotide, or Acetate, can prevent early ovulation. They have similar side effects as GnRH Agonists, including insomnia, mood swings, and headaches.
- Human Menopausal Gonadotropins (hMG): These injections contain follicle stimulating hormones and luteinizing hormone to help stimulate the ovaries to produce several eggs. Common hMG brands include Menopur and Repronex, and side effects include mood swings, abdominal pain, and bloating.
- Medrol: This steroid is often prescribed to help with any inflammation and to prepare the uterus for an embryo implantation.
- Progesterone: Injections of progesterone are often used during the egg retrieval stage of IVF, however research shows that these injections can be beneficial at helping reduce the risk of miscarriage after embryo implantation. Progesterone side effects include hot flashes, drowsiness, dizziness, mood swings, and headaches.
- Synthetic Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG): hCG is commonly used by women who need to trigger ovulation. This medication is often administered prior to an egg retrieval, and helps with the egg maturation process. For the most part, there are no noticeable side effects of taking hCG shots.
How can I make IVF injections easier?
Many IVF medications can only be taken by injection, and if you have a fear of needles, it’s not something you may be looking forward to. Creating a strategy to help you stay on top of timely injections is important, because with IVF, missing or delaying injections can have a huge impact on how successful your treatment is. When it comes to taking IVF injectable medications, you may want to:
- Speak with your doctor about best practices — Before sending you home with a prescription for injectable IVF medications, your doctor should discuss with you how to use them. This includes the preparation (cleaning the injection site with a prep swab or pad), the best area to inject for each medication, the proper way to administer a shot, and what to do afterwards for syringe cleanup.
- Have the help of your spouse or a loved one — Injecting yourself can be scary and stressful, but having your spouse, or a trusted friend or family member administer the medication can be helpful.
- Create an medication schedule with reminders — Whether you choose to write down your IVF injection and medication schedule or put it into your phone with alarms or alerts, take initiative to do so. Missing time-sensitive dosages of IVF medications can negatively impact your IVF treatment.
- Know where to get backup medication — Dropping, losing, or not having the medication you need on hand can cause you to panic, especially when taking a time-sensitive medication. Knowing what pharmacies are available to you so that you can get replacement medication quickly can help in an emergency.
How much do IVF medications cost?
The cost of IVF medications varies greatly based on what you are prescribed, how often you need the medication, where you live, the brand of the medication, and whether or not your health insurance provider offers any coverage for your medications. On average, a round of IVF medications can cost as much as $3,000 to $5,000 per cycle.
Many women undergoing IVF look for cost-saving strategies when it comes to reducing the cost of IVF medications, such as using mail-order or membership club pharmacies.
Does insurance cover the cost of IVF medications?
Determining what your health insurance provider may cover when choosing to undergo IVF treatment can be difficult. It’s hard to say exactly what kinds of treatments and medications your insurance provider will pay for, simply because there is no mandated health insurance coverage for fertility treatments.
IVF treatment patients in some states may find it easier to get coverage. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 15 states have required health insurance companies to offer some kind of coverage for infertility, particular for diagnosis and treatment of fertility-related health issues:
If you live in one of these states, you may have more options when it comes to covering the cost of IVF treatment and medications with insurance benefits. Even so, it is important to speak with a representative for your health insurance plan to see what medications you may be required to pay out of pocket, and what medications and treatment options the plan will cover.
Even if your health insurance plan does not cover IVF treatment, there’s still a chance that your health plan provider will cover some (or all) of the cost of IVF medications. In some cases, insurance companies will cover the cost of fertility medications such as Clomid, but not injectable medications that are necessary for IVF treatment.
What should I do if I can’t afford my IVF medications?
The cost of IVF treatment and prescription drugs needed can be a stressor when determining if this form of assisted reproductive medicine is the right choice for you. In cases where your insurance plan does not cover or help with the cost of IVF and fertility medications, you may be wondering just how you’ll be able to afford the cost. Luckily, there are some resources available to you to ensure that you get the medications you need and can continue the IVF process:
- Use funds from a Health Savings Account or Flexible Spending Account — If you have an HSA or FSA, you can use those savings towards the cost of your IVF medications. Speaking with your tax preparer can also help you determine how you can use the cost of IVF medications and treatments towards your taxes, so that while you’re paying out-of-pocket, you may be able to recoup some money at the end of the year.
- Seek out an IVF scholarship — Many fertility organizations offer scholarships or grants to help you with the cost of IVF treatment and medications. This kind of funding can help reduce the out-of-pocket cost you pay for IVF medications.
- Consider financing through your fertility clinic — Fertility specialists and clinics know that the cost of IVF isn’t small, and that many women and couples have a limited window of time that they may be able to get pregnant. For this reason, many fertility clinics offer financing options to help reduce or delay the costs of IVF treatment and prescription drugs, so that you can focus less on the finances and more on getting pregnant.
If you can’t afford the cost of your IVF medications, it’s important to speak with your healthcare provider as soon as possible instead of potentially skipping medications and dosages. From there, they can work with you to determine the best course of action in your fertility treatment journey.