Getting Pregnant With Breast Cancer Meds

For quite awhile now, you and your partner have been trying to conceive (TTC). This journey toward fertility has been a painful rollercoaster ride filled with high hopes interspersed with dashed dreams. First, your partner was deemed to have healthy normal sperm. Then you were put on Clomid. All you could do was hope that Clomid would do the trick, since you knew that the next step along the fertility trail was going to be both expensive and painful.

Nothing Happened

Four or perhaps as many as six cycles went by with nothing to show for your efforts, even when the doctor increased your dose. You even tried IUI, and then some of the injectable medications. But nothing happened.

You heard a friend mention Tamoxifen or perhaps Femara. It helped her ovulate and get pregnant. You're willing to give either of them a try. But there's something bugging you: aren't those two medications meant for treating breast cancer?

Yup—it's true: Tamoxifen and Femara (letrozole) were developed to prevent and treat the type of breast cancer that is hormone-responsive. Tamoxifen is known as an anti-estrogen and blocks estrogen receptors. The medication makes your body think its estrogen levels have dropped.

Femara blocks aromatase, an enzyme that is needed for the production of estrogen. By blocking aromatase, the effect of Femara is that it also blocks the production of estrogen by your body. Both Femara and Tamoxifen can be used to increase a woman's fertility and her rate of ovulation.

Better Off

While Clomid only acts on the pituitary gland, Tamoxifen and Femara work at the site of the ovaries. Many physicians believe that this more direct course of treatment is more efficient in improving the development of the egg follicles. Also, many doctors feel that women suffering from polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS) are better off with Tamoxifen than they would be with Clomid treatment.

Women who take Femara and Tamoxifen for the treatment or prevention of breast cancer must use birth control during treatment since these medications can cause birth defects when taken during pregnancy. The typical course of treatment is five years.

In essence, though these drugs do a great job of stimulating the ovaries, they are quite dangerous for embryos. But then again, most fertility drugs are dangerous in early pregnancy. This is why your physician will monitor your condition with a great deal of care during any fertility treatment.

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