Treating Female Infertility: Recombinant FSH (rFSH)

Getting pregnant isn't always such an easy thing to do. In fact, many couples have trouble conceiving a child without the help of specific fertility treatments. In particular, women with abnormal ovulation cycles tend to have difficulties becoming pregnant.

If you are also struggling with pregnancy because of your ovulation, you may be interested in trying a special fertility drug designed to help stimulate ovulation. Recombinant follicle stimulating hormone (rFSH) is often used to encourage ovulation and increase chances of pregnancy.

What is Recombinant FSH?

FSH is a special hormone that is secreted by a tiny gland in your brain, called the pituitary gland. This hormone belongs to a group of hormones known as gonadotropins, which are responsible for stimulating your ovaries.

FSH helps specifically by stimulating the development of the follicles inside of your ovaries (these follicles will mature and release eggs for fertilization).

Recombinant FSH is a synthetic form of FSH that is produced using DNA technology. It is used to help induce ovulation in preparation for fertility treatments, like IUI and IVF. In the past, FSH could only be retrieved from a woman's urine. But this FSH was often difficult to retrieve without contamination.

On the other hand, recombinant FSH can be easily produced with little contamination. Recombinant FSH now represents 98% of all FSH used in fertility treatments.

What is Recombinant FSH Used For?

Recombinant FSH is used to help induce ovulation in women who are having specific problems ovulating.

Recombinant FSH is often used in women suffering from:

  • anovulation
  • irregular menstruation
  • amenorrhea
  • PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)

How is Recombinant FSH Taken?

Recombinant FSH is usually given in the form of intramuscular or subcutaneous injections. It is typically started on Day 2 or Day 3 of your menstrual cycle and is continued daily for six to ten days. Dosages vary from woman to woman, but are typically between 75 and 600 units.

Side Effects of Recombinant FSH

If you are taking recombinant FSH therapy, you may notice a few side effects during your treatment.

Possible side effects include:

  • abdominal tenderness
  • breast tenderness
  • fluid retention and swelling
  • headache
  • fatigue
  • irritability

When taking recombinant FSH it is important to be aware of the risk of having a multiple birth. Because FSH stimulates follicular development, there is a chance that more than one egg will be released and fertilized. Recombinant FSH has also been associated with ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome (OHSS).

Success Rates with Recombinant FSH

Recombinant FSH does appear to be quite effective in stimulating ovulation in women who are having difficulties ovulating regularly. Between 70% and 90% of women taking recombinant FSH do begin to ovulate. Pregnancy rates with recombinant FSH are between 26% and 28%.


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