For many couples struggling with infertility, the problem begins with that most fundamental of all fertility ingredients, the egg. It doesn't matter how healthy you are or how long you try. If you or your partner do not ovulate, a pregnancy is not possible. Even when ovulation does occur, but is only infrequent, your chances of a successful pregnancy are dramatically reduced.
An ovulation induction procedure circumvents this problem by artificially inducing ovulation. The process is safe, generally does not require any invasive procedures or tests, and often works wonders even for couples who have unsuccessfully tried for years to get pregnant.
Signs You're Not Ovulating
You can't know for sure that you're not ovulating without medical testing. Carefully monitoring your menstrual cycles, though, may tip you off to the problem. Some common symptoms include:
- Never menstruating, or having very light periods.
- Having periods that are very close together—21 days or less.
- Never getting a positive ovulation test result; note that false positives are possible. Your body might be producing hormones designed to cause ovulation, but not actually ovulating, so a positive ovulation test does not rule out ovulation issues.
- You have polycystic ovarian syndrome or another endocrine system disorder.
What Causes Anovulatory Cycles?
A menstrual cycle during which you do not ovulate is called an anovulatory cycle. It's common to have such a cycle every now and again. Stress, illness, and random hormonal shifts may delay or eliminate ovulation. But if you frequently have anovulatory cycles, your odds of pregnancy are significantly reduced. And if you never ovulate, there is no possibility of pregnancy without medical intervention. Some common causes of anovulation include:
- Endocrine system disorders such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), diabetes, and thyroid dysfunction.
- Structural abnormalities in your uterus or ovaries.
- Autoimmune disorders.
- Chronic infections or illnesses.
- Advanced maternal age; as you approach menopause you will ovulate less frequently, and eventually stop ovulating altogether.
How is Ovulation Induced?
Occasionally, your doctor may be able to induce ovulation by treating the underlying medical condition. Particularly if this condition undermines fertility or health in other ways, this may be the safest and most effective course of action.
If you still don't ovulate, or the cause of your anovulatory cycles is unclear, we can medically induce ovulation. The most popular way to do this is with a drug called Clomid that encourages your ovaries to produce and release an egg. Depending on your circumstances, we may also use other drugs, such as follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) injections to increase the chances of successful ovulation and fertilization.
Is Ovulation Induction Safe?
No drug is without risks and side effects, so it's important to disclose your entire medical history, as well as any lifestyle issues such as drug and alcohol abuse, to your doctor. If you experience unusual or severe ovulation induction side effects when you take one of these drugs, or if you have in the past, be sure to tell your doctor.
The good news is that ovarian induction is one of the safest and best-studied infertility treatment methods. Indeed, it is many doctors' first resort when the cause of infertility is unclear.