Definition - What does Gonadotropins mean?

Gonadotropins are hormones that naturally exist within the body. However, when these hormones do not work properly or sufficiently, gonadotropins may also be prescribed as medication. This is particularly common in the case of women who require assisted reproductive treatments for infertility.

Gonadotropins emulate or enhance the naturally occurring hormones, either supporting the development and maturation of an egg within the ovary, or stimulating ovary follicles to produce multiple eggs. These measures are taken to increase the chance of a successful conception or procedure. When taken as medication, gonadotropins are typically administered via injection.

FertilitySmarts explains Gonadotropins

The pituitary gland, a small gland at the base of the brain, is responsible for producing the hormones that stimulate ovulation: follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). These two hormones are what is known as gonadotropins.

During a standard cycle, the brain promotes the development of these hormones, and as a result most women produce one egg per month. However, if FSH and LH do not work properly, ovulation may not occur, and infertility may result.

Gonadotropins may be prescribed to stimulate low functioning ovaries. Most commonly, gonadotropins are used to hyper-stimulate the ovaries, leading to the production of multiple eggs at once. This is because the chances of success with fertility treatments, such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IVF), increase with access to multiple eggs.

Common side effects of gonadotropins include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weight gain and bloating
  • Pain or irritation at injection point
  • Mood swings

There are some risks associated with gonadotropin use. The chance of multiple pregnancies increases with use, along with the risk of ectopic pregnancies, ovarian torsion, or ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS), a condition that may require medical treatment.

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