While the wife and I won’t make our way to the doctor again until Friday (OK, I don’t do much except sit there and try to remember stuff, she does the hard work), there is a lot going on this week in terms of medications and hope. So, while I stew in my never-ending desire to learn how to manipulate time, how about I work on educating you about the drugs that my wife is on.
1) Letrozole – AKA Femara
Femara is not technically a fertility drug according to the FDA, but it is commonly used as one by fertility doctors. Femara was originally created as a breast cancer drug, and it works by stopping the production of estrogen. In cancer patients, this can help prevent tumors from growing or shrink tumors.
For infertility patients, Femara helps Induce ovulation. In our case, the doctor prescribed Femara instead of Clomid because he feels that it’s more effective with fewer side effects. This is the part that’s important to us today.
When the enzyme aromatase is inhibited by the letrozole medication, estrogen levels are suppressed in young women. This results in the brain and pituitary gland increasing the output of FSH (follicle stimulating hormone).
In women that have polycystic ovary syndrome or anovulation (a problem with ovulation) the increase in FSH hormone can result in development of a mature follicle in the ovary and ovulation of an egg. Doctors call this process “induction of ovulation“.
As for side effects, this drug is literally messing around with the body’s natural hormones. And yes, I mean literally, not figuratively. Therefore, just like any hormones treatment, side effects include changes in mood, bloating, general discomfort. My wife will tell you all three happen to her, but it’s not enough to make her rethink the prescription. There was a study about a decade ago that linked Femara to a higher risk of birth defects, but everything I’ve found has discredited that study.
This is not the first time my wife has used Femara to help grow follicles. The first time it was prescribed my wife’s follicles did grow more than they did on their own, but not enough to release eggs. That’s where drug number two comes in.
2) Follistim – AKA FSH – AKA fun with needles
Follistim has a great name because it describes exactly what the drug does. It stimulates follicles, helping them grow. It does this by using follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which, again, a great name.
My wife injected herself with this morning and will have to do it again on Wednesday. After Friday’s doctor appointment, she may have to do it more to REALLY stimulate those follicles. She has used this drug once before, and saw some great results. Her follicles grew much larger than they did on Femara alone. But, as I said in this post, last time around the drug created too many follicles, so we had to cancel the cycle and not trigger ovulation. This time around the dosage has been cut down, so we’ll see how everything works. Side effects are very similar to Femara, bloating, moodiness, etc.
The Waiting Game
I have to say, my wife is a real trooper taking all of these drugs, keeping track of times and dosages and everything. I know it’s not fun for her having all of these extra hormones running through her system. At the same time, I know the hardest part for her, really for both of us, is waiting for the next ultrasound, waiting for good news, waiting to go to the next step. We’ll know more Friday.