Home Health & Food ‘Infertile women abusing ovulation-inducing drugs risk diabetes, cardiovascular diseases’

‘Infertile women abusing ovulation-inducing drugs risk diabetes, cardiovascular diseases’

by James Davies

Angela Onwuzoo

Women experiencing infertility have been warned about the risks of using ovulation-inducing drugs without evaluation and prescription by fertility experts.

Some maternal health experts say women abusing ovulation-inducing drugs by engaging in self-medication are at risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus and may damage their ovaries.

Cardiovascular Diseases include abnormal heart rhythms, or arrhythmias, aorta disease and Marfan syndrome, congenital heart disease, and coronary artery disease (narrowing of the arteries).

Others are deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism, heart attack, heart failure, and heart muscle disease (cardiomyopathy).

According to the experts, some of these drugs have severe side effects that may do more harm than good, warning that ovulation-inducing drugs cannot treat all causes of infertility.

There are concerns that some women who are experiencing difficulty with conception indulge in self-medication without knowing the state of their ovaries or if it is the best option they are using.

Speaking in an interview with PUNCH HealthWise, a professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Solomon Avidime, says it is not advisable that women, ordinarily, should commence taking ovulation drugs except on doctor’s prescription,s considering the attendant consequences.

“Women who engage in self-medication by taking drugs for the purpose of ovulation induction are at risk of side effects of the drugs, depending on the one they choose.

“Side effects they may suffer include headache, dizziness, abdominal discomfort, ovarian cyst formation and pelvic pain/discomfort, depression and mood swings.

“There are chances of multiple births as well as ectopic gestation. They may suffer hyperstimulation of the ovaries, with the attendant consequences,” Avidime warned.

He noted that the drugs can also cause Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome.

The gynaecologist explained, “Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome, when it occurs, may be in its mild form or become a severe, life-threatening condition.

“Women that develop Ovarian Hyperstimulation Syndrome can have symptoms like fluid accumulation and tense abdominal distention, shortness of breath, abdominal discomfort, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea. They may also have rapid weight gain, body swelling and low urinary output.”

He advised women having delay in conception to see the gynaecologist 12 months after active, unprotected sexual encounters if they are under 35, or six months if they are older than 35 years of age.

Experts say in low-resource settings such as Nigeria, accessing basic assisted reproductive technology treatments can be challenging or impossible for many couples who want to conceive.

According to online health portal WebMD, infertility is a serious worry for many couples because it’s a diagnosis that has the potential to dramatically alter the life that they might have imagined for themselves.

“But infertility is not as bleak as you might imagine. Although a person may be considered infertile after one full year of trying to conceive, 12 months may not mean that much.

“One recent study conducted by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences found that the majority of women, up to age 39 who didn’t become pregnant in their first year, did become pregnant in their second year without any medical assistance.

“For women between ages 27 and 34, only six percent were unable to conceive in their second year. And for 35-39-year-old women, only nine percent were unable to conceive in their second year — provided their male partner was under 40.

“So, even if you’ve been trying to get pregnant for a year, this does not mean you are infertile. Resist the temptation to rush into expensive infertility treatments before you need to,” WebMD counselled.

Giving further insight into the risk of abusing ovulation-inducing drugs, a Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, Dr. Gregory Ohihoin, told PUNCH HealthWise that the concern in the use of the drug by women is the inappropriate dosage, stressing that it will give worse side effects than expected.

Ohihoin, who is the founder of pregnancynigeria.com said, “When ovulation-inducing medicine is used indiscriminately, it can affect the ovaries. Some of the side effects can give rise to metabolic dysfunction and that will increase the risk for cardiovascular diseases and endocrine conditions like diabetes mellitus.

“If it is used for a long time, it can increase the risk for ovarian tumors and cancer,” the physician warned.

Ohihoin said that women experiencing difficulty in conception need to be evaluated first by clinicians to know what the problem is before using ovulation-inducing drugs. He noted that in some cases of infertility, the problem might be from the man and not necessarily the woman.

“Thirty percent of infertility is caused by male factor; 30 percent is caused by female factor; 30 percent is caused by both male and female factor and 10 percent unknown.

“That is why, if you have couples finding it difficult to achieve conception, both the man and the woman must be evaluated and not just the woman going to take ovulation-inducing drugs when the problem could be a male factor. The woman may be completely fine and she will just be punishing her ovaries for nothing,” he said.

He further noted that, “Women using ovulation-inducing drugs risk multiple gestations and we are worried about it because of its associated risks.

“Multiple gestation comes with increased risk of hypertensive disease in pregnancy, diabetes in pregnancy, preterm delivery, increased risk of surgical interventions, increased risk of placenta previa and postpartum hemorrhage.”

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