Using Hormones to Treat Infertility

Infertility is when the male or female reproductive system fails to achieve pregnancy naturally. There are many causes of infertility. For example, problems with ovulation, lack of quality semen and blocked or damaged fallopian tubes.

Hormones can be used as a fertility treatment to increase the chances of fertilisation. Two main fertility treatments are:

  • Fertility drugs
  • In-vitro fertilisation (IVF)

Fertility drugs

Several hormones are involved in the release of an egg from the ovaries, otherwise known as ovulation. Two of the main hormones involved in this process are FSH and LH.

  • FSH causes an egg to mature in the ovaries
  • LH stimulates the release of the egg (ovulation)

In some cases, FSH and LH are given to a woman, in what is called a fertility drug. This causes the woman to ovulate more than usual, which increases her chances of becoming pregnant after sexual intercourse.

There are often risks and many side effects that come with taking fertility drugs

In-vitro fertilisation (IVF)

Another infertility treatment is in-vitro fertilisation (IVF), which takes place outside of the woman’s body.

The mother is treated with FSH and LH to mature the eggs. Then, the eggs are collected and fertilised in a laboratory using the father’s sperm. Once the eggs develop into embryos, they are placed back into the mother’s uterus (womb) to continue their growth.

Advancements in microscopy techniques are improving the success rates of IVF. For example, screening genes and chromosomes of IVF-created embryos, which can prevent couples from passing on serious inheritable conditions.

Advantages and disadvantages of IVF


  • Allows couples to have babies of their own
  • Donated eggs or sperm can be used
  • Unused eggs can be used for research or donated


  • It can often be very emotional and stressful for both parents
  • The success rates are not particularly high, so many couples often need several rounds of IVF to have a baby
  • It can lead to multiple births (twins, triplets etc), which is a risk to the mother and babies
  • Not all embryos created are inserted into the mother’s uterus. Many are destroyed, which many people think is unethical
  • IVF is an expensive process