If you’ve decided to take medication for ovulation issues, then your physician may prescribe letrozole. Learning how to take letrozole for fertility is so important, because you want the meds to be as effective as possible. Thankfully, there are just a few tips to keep in mind when you’re on this particular medication and trying to conceive.
First, here’s a little background info on letrozole and how it is most commonly given as a medication. “Letrozole is used to adjust hormone levels in the body, which spurs the ovaries to produce an egg to be released during ovulation,” as Dr. Jennifer Hirshfeld-Cytron of Fertility Centers of Illinois tells Romper. Although this sounds like a typical fertility medication, letrozole has usually been prescribed with other conditions in mind. “For over a decade, letrozole has been used mainly to treat various types of breast cancer,” Dr. Laurence Jacobs, also of Fertility Centers of Illinois, says. From a class of drugs known as aromatase inhibitors, letrozole works by blocking the aromatase enzyme that converts testosterone into estrogen throughout the body, including in the ovaries. In other words, this drug helps regulate ovulation, otherwise known as the time in your cycle when you can get pregnant. It's a pretty big deal.
Despite its original purpose, letrozole has shown a lot of promise as a fertility medication. “Both clomiphene citrate (Clomid) and letrozole (Femara) are oral medications used to treat infertile women who have ovulation problems," says Dr. Jacobs. This could include people with ovulation disorders, particularly polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), which causes irregular periods and infrequent (or sometimes totally absent) ovulation. In these cases, letrozole may be an effective fertility treatment. “Taking letrozole can increase the chances of pregnancy by up to 10-15 percent per month in women less than age 35,” says Dr. Hirshfeld-Cytron. “Studies have shown that letrozole is more effective than clomid in helping women ovulate.” For some people who are dealing with fertility issues, this drug is a pretty amazing choice.
For the most part, taking letrozole for fertility is simple enough. “Letrozole is taken in tablet form by mouth for five days in the early days of the reproductive cycle, commonly on days 3-7,” says Dr. Hirshfeld-Cytron, stressing the importance of taking letrozole at the same time every day. “A cycle is measured from the first day a woman gets her period until the first day of her next period.” If your physician prescribes this drug specifically for fertility, then follow their instructions closely.
There are some potential side effects and general things to know before taking letrozole to help get pregnant, however. “Letrozole can cause fatigue and the chances of twins increases to 8 percent, up from 5 percent in the general population,” says Dr. Hirshfeld-Cytron. Discuss your potential for any additional side effects with your doctor.
In addition, some physicians simply prefer to prescribe more common fertility medication such as clomid. “Many doctors are more comfortable using clomid since letrozole is not approved by the FDA as an infertility drug and its use in this fashion is still considered 'off label,'” says Dr. Jacobs. (Going "off-label" means taking an FDA-approved medication for some unapproved use, according to FDA.gov. It isn't necessarily bad, it just means that the drug hasn't been as thoroughly tested for that particular treatment.) If your doctor is leaning toward letrozole as a fertility treatment, then have a discussion about its safety and potential effectiveness in your case.