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Follistim, Gonal-F, Bravelle (Follitropin, FSH)

These fertility medications contain a hormone called follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) that is normally produced by the pituitary gland which is located at the base of the brain. The FSH can be made in the lab using recombinant DNA technology (Follistim and Gonal-F) or extracted from urine (Bravelle). 

FSH stimulates the eggs to grow and when given in higher doses can overcome the body's normal mechanisms that prevent the release of more than one egg which can in turn lead to multiple births. Because of the chemical structure of FSH, it will not work when taken by mouth, so it always must be given by injection. Some formulations such as Follistim and Gonal F are given by a specially designed pen and others such as Bravelle have to be reconstituted from a powder and given with a syringe.

The side effects of FSH injections include:

  • mood swings
  • headaches
  • multiple pregnanacies (twins, triplets and beyone)
  • ovarian hyperstimulation
  • possible increased risk of ovarian cancer

Menopur (Human Menopausal Gonadotropins, HMG)

Human menopausal gonadotropins  are another  type of injectable fertility  medication which contain not only FSH, but another pituitary hormone called LH (luteinizing hormone), or at least a hormones that function like LH. Like Bravelle it is extracted from urine and must be reconstituted fresh from a powder each day.   HMG is often used with or instead of FSH in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) or undergoing in vitro fertilization (IVF). The side effects of menopur are the same as those of FSH.

Ovidrel, Novarel, Pregnyl (Human Chorionic Gonadoptropin, hCG)

hCG is the hormone produced by pregnant women that we measure in a pregnancy test. Because hCG works in a similar way to LH which triggers ovulation, hCG can be used to trigger ovulation. Injections of hCG (Ovidrel, Pregnyl and Novarel) are used to trigger release of the eggs for women undergoing IVF, IUI and ovulation induction.