Fertility Drugs

Initial treatment often includes the use of fertility drugs to stimulate egg production, especially in women with polycystic ovaries. These are prescribed if there is a problem with ovulation (the release of an egg each month). Common fertility medicines include:

  • clomifene – encourages the monthly release of an egg (ovulation) in women who don't ovulate regularly or who can't ovulate at all
  • tamoxifen – an alternative to clomifene that may be offered to women with ovulation problems
  • metformin – particularly beneficial for women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • gonadotrophins – can help stimulate ovulation in women, and may also improve fertility in men
  • gonadotrophin-releasing hormone and dopamine agonists – other types of medication prescribed to encourage ovulation (NHS choices 2017)

Some women may get pregnant using fertility drugs alone or they may be offered them in combination with other treatments such as IUI and IVF. 

Most of the women we spoke to had been offered Clomid. This often marked the start of their journey through fertility treatment. (We did not interview anyone who was successful with fertility drugs, although they are often successful.)

For Janine and her husband taking Clomid was the first step on what she described as a “treatment escalator” which went on to include ICSI, donor eggs and eventually adoption. But for others, Clomid is all that is needed to achieve a successful pregnancy. Those who attended more than one clinic or compared notes with other couples, were sometimes surprised to find that standard practice varied at different clinics and that there are “no easy answers” as to which treatments to try in which order. Belinda, for example, changed clinics and was given different advice.

Side effects

Clomiphene (Clomid) can have unpleasant side-effects for some women, even if they felt they had been warned and prepared for a state of “hormonal hell”. Lulu (see above) said it was “like having PMT (pre menstrual tension) ten times over”. After three months on clomiphene, Maggie stopped because she felt “I’m moody, I’m spotty and I can’t have kids”. 

Another woman who took clomiphene for three months reflected that “it is not a pleasant experience and it doesn’t do a lot for your sex life either I’m afraid”.

​Last reviewed July 2017.
​Last updated July 2017.


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