Medication or hormone treatments are often the first steps in infertility treatment. They are typically less expensive and less risky than invasive procedures, and are used to:
- Increase sperm counts in men with abnormal hormone levels.
- Stimulate ovulation in women who are not ovulating regularly or at all.
- Stimulate superovulation before an assisted reproductive technology (ART) or insemination procedure. Superovulation is used to increase the number of eggs that are collected for ART or that are present when sperm are inseminated.
In order to closely time and control the success of an ART procedure, doctors commonly control the ovaries with hormone treatment. First, a hormone is used to "shut down" the pituitary, which puts the ovaries in a menopause-like state (menopausal symptoms are common). This is called pituitary down-regulation with a GnRH analogue. Then ovulation-stimulating gonadotropins are used to trigger ovulation on a schedule. This process is also used before some insemination procedures.