Ovulation is the release of an egg that’s ready for fertilization. Normally, the ovaries release one fertile egg every month (sometimes, more than one egg may be released in the same cycle). When a woman doesn’t ovulate at all, it’s known as anovulation; when she ovulates irregularly (meaning that she doesn’t ovulate every month), it’s called oligoovulation. These disorders account for about a third of the infertility problems that we see at our Tucson, AZ fertility clinic, and either type can be treated with ovulation induction. There are many causes for anovulation and oligoovulation.
Why do ovulation problems occur?
Ovulation problems can stem from problems with the pituitary gland, problems with the developing follicles/ovary or both. But sometimes the exact problem is unknown. Age can cause oligoovulation when a woman is peri-menopausal and her ovaries do not produce as many eggs as in previous years. During this time, ovulation can be sporadic or occur at inappropriate times when the uterus is not ready to receive a fertilized egg or embryo. In these cases, ovulation induction can help increase the number of eggs available for ovulation and help correct timing issues with the cycle.
How does ovulation induction work?
Ovulation induction controls when a female’s body releases eggs, through the use of hormonal medications (sometimes known colloquially as “fertility drugs”). This process alone doesn’t directly cause a pregnancy, but it allows sexual intercourse or intrauterine insemination to be planned according to when a fertile egg will be present, which maximizes the chances of success. Ovulation induction is also a part of the process for IVF as well as egg donation.
During ovulation induction, physicians monitor patients using ultrasound technology so they can track the development of the follicles on the ovaries. When the follicles reach ovulatory size, and the uterine lining is at least 6 to 8 millimeters thick, a “trigger shot” of medication (hCG, at a dose of 10,000 IU) is administered. Thirty-six hours following this injection, patients typically ovulate, and can time intercourse or intrauterine insemination to occur in this time frame.
Can ovulation induction lead to too many babies?
At Reproductive Health Center, our goal for every patient is a healthy singleton pregnancy. There have been cases reported in which women became pregnant with higher-order multiples (as many as eight babies at once) through ovulation induction. This is not healthy for the mother or the babies. Through ultrasound monitoring, we can detect how many eggs are developing during that cycle. If too many follicles are detected, we will recommend against trying to get pregnant during that cycle, because of the risk of too many embryos being created at once. We will adjust the dose of the medications, and you can try again when a more reasonable number of eggs is present or move on to IVF.