The Relationship Between Medications and Fertility

There are some medications that can affect fertility, although this is usually a reversible problem. Keep reading to learn more.
The Relationship Between Medications and Fertility
Diego Pereira

Written and verified by the doctor Diego Pereira.

Last update: 10 June, 2023

Many people often wonder if medications are able to affect fertility. You’ll find out the answer in the following article. In it, we’ll explore the reasons why certain drugs decrease reproductive ability in women.

While the possibility exists, it’s actually a rare problem. In fact, doctors often order other tests to determine the cause of infertility. In rare cases is it associated with the use of medications, making it a “diagnosis of exclusion”. Are you interested in knowing a little more about this topic? Let’s take a closer look at the relationship between medication and fertility.

Why do some medications affect fertility?

It’s unlikely that the use of a single drug will cause permanent infertility. In fact, their effects tend to be reversible.

They’re used for a wide variety of conditions, such as rheumatoid arthritis or epilepsy. Therefore, in the event of a problem conceiving, it’s not advisable to interrupt treatment abruptly without medical indication. Otherwise, it could lead to additional problems in a situation that can be resolved by a change of medication or dosage.

A woman taking a pill with water.
Most of the drugs that have been associated with fertility problems only affect a few processes and their effects tend to be reversible.

What does fertility depend on?

The ability to conceive, being a vital function of human beings, is quite complex. However, in general terms, fertility depends on the following factors:

  • The integrity of the anatomical structures: As long as the female reproductive system (which includes the uterus, uterine tubes, and ovaries) and other organs (such as the pituitary gland) are structurally preserved, conception can take place.
  • Proper functioning of the organs involved: The proper release of hormones and other substances means that fertility can be maintained.

Many health problems, such as some congenital defects, are capable of affecting both aspects. In the specific case of drugs, they often alter the way in which one of the organs involved functions. For example, by changing the hormonal secretion pattern of the pituitary gland.

Medications that can affect fertility

According to a publication in the journal Clinical and Research in Gynecology and Obstetrics (2012), drugs associated with female infertility are very varied. Below, we’ll present a brief review of the most prominent ones:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). This is a very large and widely used group of drugs with analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties, such as meloxicam, piroxicam, and ketorolac. They’re often used sporadically or as part of the treatment of rheumatic diseases. They may affect the ovulation process.
  • Antiepileptic drugs. There are scientific reviews that state that valproate (valproic acid) and carbamazepine are more frequently associated with menstrual cycle alterations. This increases the difficulty in achieving conception.
  • Psychotropics. These drugs exert their main action on the cells of the nervous system. Phenothiazine derivatives (such as chlorpromazine) increase the release of prolactin. It inhibits pituitary secretion of luteinizing hormone and follicle-stimulating hormone, which are vital for reproduction.
  • Chemotherapeutic agents. These substances are used to treat cancer. According to the aforementioned study, they can also affect fertility, although this is more frequent in men. In women, busulfan causes gonadal failure and mechlorethamine causes secondary amenorrhea.

Of course, we’ve left aside contraceptive drugs, which precisely seek to block fertility by altering the concentration of various hormones.

A woman swallowing a pill with water.
If there are problems conceiving, you should consult a specialist rather than discontinue treatment, especially if you suffer from chronic diseases, as it could lead to serious problems.

Medical guidance is essential

In case of problems conceiving, infertility shouldn’t be associated right off the bat with the consumption of certain medications. Although it’s possible, in most cases, it’s due to other problems.

For this reason, it’s advisable to see a specialist in reproductive medicine as soon as possible. By performing various complementary studies, they’ll be able to determine the origin of the problem and indicate the most effective treatments.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.