Patients with infertility know that treatment can be involved and stressful. Although in vitro fertilization (IVF) is one treatment option, there are a variety of other options commonly used to treat infertility. These treatments are less invasive than IVF but may provide patients a good chance of becoming pregnant.

One cause of infertility is due to a woman not ovulating or having infrequent ovulation. When this situation occurs, a more intense treatment plan is advised to cause ovulation; this process is called ovulation induction.

A recent addition to female infertility treatment is named letrozole (Femara). This oral medication is prescribed to improve the chances of an egg releasing (ovulation induction) or to increase the number of eggs which ovulate each cycle (superovulation).

For many years, clomiphene citrate (Clomid or Serophene) has been the drug of choice for either ovulation induction or superovulation. However, clomiphene citrate stays in the body for a long time and can have negative effects on cervical mucus and uterine lining. In contrast, letrozole is relatively short-acting and has not been shown to have the same negative effects on the uterine lining or cervical mucus.

A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine compared outcomes in 750 women with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) that were randomized to receive either letrozole or clomiphene, for up to 5 treatment cycles.

The study showed higher ovulation rates with patients taking letrozole (61.7%), compared to clomiphene (48.3%). The patients taking letrozole (27.5%) also had higher live birth rates over the patients taking clomiphene (19.1 %.) The live birth benefit was higher in obese women (BMI≥35). There was no significant difference in rates of pregnancy loss, twin rates or adverse events between the two groups.

Overall, letrozole is a new option for women experiencing infertility due to hormone problems, PCOS, or have absent or reduced ovulation. The lower cost and lower number of side effects, also increase the “value” of this medication in aiding patients to achieve pregnancy.

At RMA Lehigh Valley, your physician and nurse will work together to develop a treatment plan based on your specific needs. For more information on ovulation induction and the drugs prescribed or if you have any questions, please speak with your RMA Lehigh Valley physician or nurse.