What Are Fertility Pills, And How Do They Work?

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If you face fertility issues, your doctor may prescribe fertility pills to you. There are a range of different fertility pills, often closely matched to the fertility treatment a patient is to undergo. The mechanisms of action of different fertility pills is different from treatment to treatment, but they are all predominantly aimed at helping increase the chances of fertility and ultimately conception and pregnancy. Starting fertility treatment can be in incredibly exciting as well as overwhelming and daunting process, but your doctor or fertility expert will be there to explain all you need and to guide you through the process and you progress. Here, we look at what fertility pills are and how they can help couples conceive.

What Are Fertility Pills?

Fertility pills are a form of medication that reproductive experts and doctors may use to enhance fertility and increase the chances of conceiving. Their goal is to improve the production and quality of eggs in women and sperm in men, both of which are likely to improve the chances of becoming pregnant. There are various forms of drugs and medications to address infertility in women. However, there are fewer fertility medication choices prescribed for men.   

How Do Fertility Pills Work?

Typically, healthcare experts will use fertility drugs  as part of the treatment to treat any underlying factors in the woman contributing to the troubles conceiving. Fertility pills often stimulate follicle development in the ovaries to promote the natural ovulation process. These drugs are used to encourage ovulation to occur as naturally as possible, in which an egg is released, ready for fertilisation each month.

Fertility pills can also be vital components of assisted conception treatments for women, such as in-vitro fertilisation, known as IVF and intrauterine insemination, also known as 'IUI.'

Regarding male fertility and addressing potential infertility in men, the aim of fertility pills will usually be to increase the quality of the sperm. Medication aims to provide the sperm with the best chances of reaching the egg, leading to fertilisation and ultimately conception and pregnancy.

What Fertility Pills Do Doctors Prescribe?

Following fertility assessments, your reproductive specialist will be able to recommend which fertility drug, or drugs, may help in your circumstances. Your doctor or healthcare professional will assess your health and circumstances to help determine and decide which fertility treatment and which fertility drugs should be prescribed. The most common fertility pills prescribed by doctors are Clomifene, Tamoxifen and Metformin.


Clomifene, also known as clomiphene, is a fertility pill used to support consistent monthly ovulation in women who do not ovulate or whose cycle is erratic. This includes treating women with polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). The tablet is taken orally once a day, and a course of treatment usually lasts for five days. Common side effects of Clomifene include pelvic pain and hot flashes. Doctors can also prescribe Comifene for men with a low sperm count caused by low testosterone levels.


Tamoxifen is prescribed as an alternative to Clomifene. Similarly, Tamoxifen tablets have been seen to encourage ovulation in women who do not ovulate regularly. When prescribed tamoxifen, you will usually be asked to take one pill each day on days two, three, four and five of your menstrual cycle, with day one being the first day of your period.


Metformin is a hormone balancing pill that supports a consistent ovulation process. It is regularly used to treat women with polycystic ovary syndrome. Fertility specialists sometimes prescribe Metformin alongside an ovulation induction drug, like Clomifene. 

Do Fertility Pills Work For All Women?

Fertility pills to stimulate ovulation are not recommended for all women and can not guarantee conception or successful pregnancy. Fertility pills are unlikely to be prescribed to women who are otherwise ovulating naturally, as excess ovulation stimulation can lead to other health problems. However, as with all treatments and healthcare options, your doctor or healthcare expert will recommend the best course of action.

Moreover, if your fertility issues are unexplained, you may not be prescribed fertility pills as they have not been found to increase the chances of getting pregnant in unexplained cases. Doctors tend not to use fertility drugs speculatively as this may be detrimental to the aim of conception. Only once the problem and potential remedy are identified should fertility pills be prescribed.

Can Fertility Pills Cause Side Effects?

Yes, much like any medication, pills used to treat infertility can cause some side effects in some cases, and this as always should be discussed in detail with your doctor or fertility expert if you have any concerns. Although they are safe and often successful medicines, patients may experience side effects that they should be aware of. In some women, they can cause: 

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Headaches 
  • Hot flushes 

Another side effect is the chance of developing too many egg sacs, a symptom called Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome. There is also an increased chance of multiple pregnancies, having twins or triplets. Fertility pills should always be taken under the supervision of a fertility expert. 

What Are Fertility Supplements?

Fertility supplements are not the same as fertility pills and should not be confused. While some research indicates that taking fertility supplements may offer some benefits, other research suggests that they have a lesser effect. Supplements are unregulated and, unlike prescription medications, are not required to prove their effectiveness through clinical trials or any other research. The Centre for Science in the Public Interest investigated 39 women's fertility supplements available on the market. The study found that none of these manufacturers provided any credible scientific substantiation that their products help women get pregnant. 

Even if a supplement cites natural or naturally occurring ingredients, it may not be safe. Supplements can be dangerous in certain doses, cause unwanted side effects or possible reactions with other medications you are taking. Therefore, you should always consult your doctor or healthcare professional before considering taking any new supplement.

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