Ways Medications Can Affect Fertility


For women who are thinking about becoming pregnant, keeping their bodies fit and healthy is of utmost importance. There are many outside factors that can affect not only the pregnancy itself but also can deter conception from ever occurring. Some of the more common hindrances include obesity, glandular issues, venereal diseases and uterine fibroids. What may not be widely known is that some over-the-counter and prescription medications can also have a determining factor on whether conception occurs.

The female reproductive system is a delicate balance of interaction between the brain, ovaries, and uterus. The communication occurring between these organs can become interrupted by health issues or by medications. In turn, this disruption affects ovulation and conception.

For women who rely on prescription medications to treat medical conditions, this can cause quite a conundrum. They are left with the choice of not participating in treatment and suffering or participating in treatment and dealing with the possibility they will not be about to become pregnant. This difficult decision can leave a woman torn and dealing with emotional issues including depression and frustration. She may isolate herself from others, especially those that cannot understand the conflicting emotions she is dealing with. Studies have shown that women who are facing issues with conception feel the same anxiety and depression as those who are suffering from cardiovascular disease, cancer or HIV.

It is extremely important that women who are taking any kind of medication consult with their doctor in order to monitor fertility. The physician may be aware of other courses of treatment that will not interfere with the ability to conceive. They will also be able to monitor any interaction between that medication and any fertility medication also being taken.

How Medications Deter Conception

Medications, whether over-the-counter or prescribed, can interfere with conception by disrupting fertility. In women, these drugs can not only change the ovulation cycle but can also inhibit the ability to ovulate at all. They can also make the uterus less responsive to hosting a fertilized egg. These side-effects run counter to the benefits received from fertility medication. In men, medication can alter the production of follicle stimulating hormones or luteinizing hormones. Released by the pituitary gland, these hormones help to regulate sperm count. A change in this count can hinder conception.

How Long is the Body Affected

Just because a patient has stopped taking a medication that does not mean that the body is immediately recovered. The side-effects from medications may take weeks to subside. While most pharmaceuticals are eliminated from the body within a few days, some can continue to interfere with fertility and fertility medication for months. It is recommended that women who have been exposed to the cancer-fighting drug, methotrexate, wait at least three months before trying to get pregnant.

Women who were on birth control should not expect their bodies to be receptive to conception for at least a couple months. When suppression of the reproductive process is stopped, it may take the lining of the uterus a period of time to recover. Some medications, such as the injectable contraception Depo-provera, can cause issues with fertility for up to ten months after injections are ceased.

Over-the-Counter Medications and Fertility

Of the plethora of medications available without a prescription, barely any have been studied as far as their effects on fertility. This inaction leads to ambiguity as far as the relationship between specific over-the-counter medication and its role in conception. There are also many options of fertility medication that are now available without a doctor’s prescription; however, research into their effectiveness is slim. It is not known just to what extent fertility medication not prescribed interacts with other medications. While most of the medications that can be purchased off the shelf don’t tend to cause problems with conception, the primary care physician should be aware of their use. Be especially cautious when taking NSAIDs or herbal supplements.

NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are over-the-counter medications such as aspirin and ibuprofen that provide pain-killing and fever-reducing relief without the use of steroids. Some of these medications may interfere in women with the ability of the ovaries to release an egg.

The main concern with herbal supplements is the lack of regulation and data concerning fertility. Some of these natural remedies contain ingredients that can affect the body the same way that hormones do. This is especially true in products that are made from the adrenal gland, the testicles and the ovaries of animals.

Fertility and Prescription Medication

When it comes to medication, those prescribed by a doctor are the ones that have the highest risk of hindering fertility. Antidepressants and some antipsychotics may alter the regulation of hormones in the body responsible for ovulation. They may also affect the ability of fertility medication to function properly. For those who are able to conceive, these medications may cause miscarriage or premature birth. NSAIDs that require a prescription run the same risks as their non-prescription counterparts.

Steroids are a serious class of medication when it comes to fertility. This includes anabolic steroids and corticosteroids. These are used to treat illnesses like asthma and lupus and are made from testosterone, which can cause major disruptions to the reproductive process. Steroids may also inhibit the body’s release of reproductive hormones, thus disrupting the ovulation and menstrual cycles.

Chemotherapy drugs are also a huge threat to fertility. Some, especially those that contain alkylating agents, may cause permanent infertility.

Other medications that may have an impact on fertility include antiepileptic medicines, thyroid medications and skin-care products that contain hormones.

Alternatives to Medications

Some afflictions leave the sufferer with no choice but the take medication. Other may have alternative treatment options available that won’t interfere with conception. Women hoping to get pregnant that are currently on SSRI’s may wish to review the benefits versus the side-effects to determine whether a different course of action should be taken. Most physicians recommend that patients who are trying to conceive be on as few medications as possible. If a course of treatment that has high risks of infertility cannot be avoided, options such as freezing eggs are available.