When it comes to infertility treatments, Clomid seems to be all the buzz among doctors and patients alike. You’ll hear the word everywhere – in social circles, from your online friends, on TV, probably from family and even co-workers (we certainly did). You may even hear it during casual conversation at a train stop (don’t ask).
When Susan’s RE suspected she might not be ovulating, he brought the idea of Clomid up even before we began charting (usually the first step, before medical options, to get a basic view of what your body may be doing month-on-month).
The doctor explained that once anovulatory cycles or irregular ovulation is confirmed, Clomid is almost always the prescribed next course of action.
I admit we weren’t exactly surprised – we were already online detective hounds by this time and had heard of many patients who had taken the drug. The medical journals said it could work wonders – if conditions were just right.
The users’ reviews were less optimistic and rather mixed. Even in patients who took Clomid, some had side-effects that would make almost anyone pause.
Or at least anyone who wasn’t trying to conceive. If you’re like most people struggling with infertility issues, you’re willing to go the distance and are strong enough to handle almost anything that comes your way. But be aware of what to expect before you start on this drug that offers so much hope to couples who are eager to conceive.
In the end, we were lucky enough to get pregnant without Clomid (we used a Chinese medicine regimen instead). No one method works for everyone, so think carefully about all your options. With a little knowledge, you can make the decision whether or not to go for the drug that’s touted as an ovulation-stimulating wonder.
Clomid: The Pros
- Clomid can work very, very well for patients with PCOS. Even in PCOS patients who are already occasionally ovulating, Clomid can make ovulation much more predictable so that intercourse can be timed to maximize the possibility of conception.
- If you tend to have very long cycles (we had one cycle where Susan ovulated on CD37 – can you say “teeth-grindingly long wait”?), Clomid can speed up the process so you ovulate much earlier.
- Clomid is a less intense option than injectibles. Definitely try Clomid before injectible drugs unless your RE recommends otherwise.
- Clomid is taken orally, so it’s non-invasive.
- According to the Medical Society for Reproduction, depending upon the patient’s age and any existing health concerns, 80% of Clomid users ovulate regularly, and up to 45% may get pregnant within 6 cycles. The overall pregnancy success rate for Clomid is 10-20%, which is nearly the same as for couples not experiencing infertility issues.
Clomid: The Cons
- Not all insurance companies cover Clomid. Some will cover the generic form, clomiphene citrate. Even if it’s not covered by your plan, the generic should be much cheaper than Clomid, so ask about this option at your pharmacy.
- Most doctors won’t want you to be on Clomid for an extended period of time. You may also have a total limit for your Clomid cycles (even if you take breaks between cycles). Generally patients are limited to 6 cycles of Clomid, though in special circumstances it might be prescribed for up to 12 cycles.If you experience several cycles where you’re taking the medication but don’t conceive or don’t ovulate at all, knowing you’re on limited time can be an emotional roller coaster. Be prepared for that.
- Clomid can come with some heavy-duty side effects. As with most drugs, side effects tend to be worse with higher doses, but some patients get hit with side effects no matter how small the dosage. Clomid starts at 50mg and goes up from there depending upon how your body is or isn’t responding.Reported side effects include pain caused by ovarian swelling, headaches, irritability (to put it mildly), visual disturbances, gastrointestinal disturbances, flushing and abnormal bleeding. Call your doctor if you experience these side effects.
- Clomid can, in rare cases, cause a condition called ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS). OHSS can be fatal. Call your doctor or visit your emergency room immediately if you experience allergic reactions such as swelling of the hands or legs, shortness of breath and/or significant abdominal pain your doctor has not told you to expect.
- Clomid increases the possibility of multiple births (twins, triplets or more!). You may not consider this a con; for a couple who’s been trying hard for a baby, finding out you’re having more than one can be wonderful and very much welcomed. However, pregnancies with multiples tend to be higher in risk than pregnancies with singletons, so you’ll need to be monitored more closely than the average patient.
What if You Decide Against Clomid?
If you’re on the fence about Clomid, try other methods first. Ask your doctor about other possible fertility medications. Despite Clomid’s dominance in the field, alternatives are out there.
Also, if you haven’t done so already and you believe you are ovulating, you may wish to try natural/holistic methods. Certain herbs, such as vitex/Chaste Berry, for example, are said to speed ovulation, make your cycle more regular and may even increase the luteal phase in some patients, giving a fertilized egg a longer period of time in which to implant. (On a personal note, this one was a huge help to myself and Sue.)
Don’t discount “non-traditional” avenues, such as Chinese/eastern medication, fertility herbs and/or accupressure. These methods are gaining credibility as more and more western scientific research is being done.
No, it is not all a collection of old wives’ tales, but is often based firmly in the shoes of science, as professionals and clients alike are discovering. So do give eastern medicine a try.
Another wonderful thing about eastern medicine is that it treats the whole body … and the whole person.
Other guidelines for encouraging regular ovulation include treating your PCOS, managing your weight and exercising regularly. Yes, we know – you’ve already heard this. (So did we!) Trust me, the more you can manage your PCOS, the better your chances of having regular cycles with ovulation each or most cycles.
A Special Note To Men
Don’t disregard your part in this process, and we’re not being facetious here. Your role may be bigger than you think. Try methods such as a full-body detox, herbs and foods that help increase fertility and supplements that are noted to help produce better quality sperm overall.
Your bottom line? Whether or not to take Clomid is a very personal decision that requires research and a full knowledge of what to expect. Discuss it thoroughly with your doctor and with your partner if you have one before deciding upon Clomid. If you do take it, follow all your doctor’s instructions. And remember to ask questions. The more you know, the better off you’ll be.