What Is GnRH Agonist?

What is GnRH agonist, and why do I need to take it during IVF?
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ByPeter G. McGovern, MD, director, Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility, University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, Newark; medical director of University Reproductive Associates, Montclair, NJ
Fertility Specialist
Updated
Mar 2017
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The alphabet soup of letters known as GnRH stands for Gonadotropin-releasing hormone. This important hormone tells the pituitary gland how much  FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and LH (luteinizing hormone) it should release, which in turn triggers the development and release of eggs. In short, it helps keep your whole reproductive cycle running smoothly. A GnRH agonist, on the other hand, is an artificial hormone that serves to block that process, effectively putting the brakes on your egg production.

It’s an important drug for anyone receiving IVF. Although it seems counterintuitive to actually halt your egg production when you’re trying to get pregnant, it’s a necessary part of the assisted reproductive process. Your doctor doesn’t want your body releasing an egg too early or at the wrong time, which would essentially screw up the preparation you’ve undergone for egg retrieval. The most common GnRH agonist is Lupron, but you might also see the brands Zoladex and Synarel. In addition to its role in IVF, GnRH agonists are used to help treat endometriosis, fibroids and even certain cancers, like prostate cancer. It has a few side effects, including some menopausal-like symptoms such as hot flashes and headaches, but since it’s only used for a brief time in IVF, these are usually pretty minimal.

 

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