If you are trying to get pregnant then ovulation induction could increase your chances of success.
If you have not become pregnant after a year of trying there is a one in three chance that this is caused by your ovaries not regularly producing eggs.
Irregular periods is one indication that you might not be ovulating – releasing an egg once a month – the most common cause is Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) whilst other reasons include weight gain, weight loss, stress or an underlying health issue.
So it is good to have your ovulation checked if you are trying to conceive, particularly if there is a family history of early menopause.
What happens when you ovulate?
In a natural cycle, hormones from the brain tell the follicles in a woman’s ovaries to produce an egg – and once a month a ‘ripe’ egg will then be released into the fallopian tube ready to be fertilised by a single sperm.
You’re most fertile within a day or two either side of an egg being released from your ovaries. This usually occurs around 14 days after the beginning of a period, but it can vary between 11-16 days.
Don’t worry that you will miss this ‘window’. Sperm can survive inside your body for several days, so if you have sex every 2-3 days about this time that will give you the best chance of getting pregnant.
So what can be done to boost your ovulation?
If you are overweight and your BMI is above 30 the first course of action is to lose weight as this can kick-start your ovulation. This can be more difficult if you have PCOS so get some support to help you do this – a nutritionist can advise how to change your diet and there are keep fit classes designed to help with weight loss.
If you are not overweight or have succeeded in losing weight but are still not ovulating the next step may be to see a fertility doctor and find out if the prescription of ovulation induction medication could boost your ovulation.
How successful is Ovulation Induction?
At Bourn Hall about 30 per cent of women experiencing fertility problems and referred for diagnosis become pregnant naturally after Ovulation Induction treatment (OI).
The choice of drugs will be made by one of our fertility experts after careful assessment.
During an ovulation induction cycle you will have ultrasound scans and blood tests to ensure that just one egg is maturing and ready for release. You will then be given a time window when natural conception is most likely to occur.
The most common fertility medicines used in Ovulation Induction are the following:
Clomifene citrate (Clomid)
Clomid is an effective treatment which stimulates your ovaries to produce more eggs. It is often the first course of treatment for women with polycystic ovaries but it can also be used by women who have late or irregular periods.
Metformin is a drug used in the treatment of people with diabetes but it can also be used by others who also have abnormal insulin levels.
Women with PCOS can develop insulin resistance and to compensate, the body will produce more insulin than it needs and this can lead to high androgen (male hormone) levels. Metformin reduces insulin in the body to normal levels, allowing ovulation to return to normal.
Gonadotrophins can be used by women with PCOS who haven’t become pregnant with Clomid and are still experiencing problems with ovulation. They are hormones that you inject into the body to help stimulate egg production.
Bromocriptine and Cabergoline
Bromocriptine and Cabergoline can be used by women who produce too much of the prolactin hormone, a condition called hyperprolactinemia.
Prolactin is produced by the pituitary gland in the brain and too much of it can reduce levels of oestrogen in the body, making ovulation difficult. Bromocriptine and Cabergoline both increase levels of dopamine in the brain, which helps to reduce levels of prolactin production and return ovulation to normal.
Getting fertility advice
Bourn Hall can help you get pregnant with a free fertility consultation and half-price fertility testing. Your GP is an important first point of contact but they can’t be expected to be an expert in everything.
So why not take the opportunity to have a free consultation with a friendly fertility nurse specialist at Bourn Hall? The nurse will go through your medical history and talk to you about your lifestyle and any concerns that you may have. From this meeting you will be able to decide if you should make some lifestyle changes, want to try a bit longer or have some fertility testing.
If you meet the NHS criteria then your GP can refer you for NHS Fertility Diagnosis and Treatment. Tests will be able to check that eggs are available and being released each month (ovulation) and that all the important tubes are clear of obstructions. These tests can be done at any Bourn Hall Clinic with a GP referral.
If you do not have a GP referral these tests are also available at Bourn Hall for self-funders, you do not have to been trying to conceive to have these tests and they are available as a package or individually.