The term gonad describes an organ that produces sex cells (or gametes) such as sperm or egg. Thus, a woman’s ovaries and a man’s testes are both called gonads. Gonadotropins are hormones secreted by your pituitary gland that stimulate the growth and activity of your gonads. Therefore, these hormones play a part in egg and sperm production, as well as the development of physical traits like your voice, muscle, hair and breasts.
Your body naturally produces two kinds of gonadotropins: follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). These hormones are necessary for ovulation – the production of eggs. A woman may naturally have low hormone levels and be unable to ovulate. To boost hormone levels, a patient undergoing fertility treatment is often given scheduled injections of gonadotropin fertility drugs.
There are three classes of these fertility drugs: human menopausal gonadotropin (hMG), recombinant human follicle-stimulating hormone (rFSH), and human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). hMG contains natural amounts of FSH and LH, while rFSH is created in the laboratory. Both are used to aid in the development of eggs. Once this happens, hCG acts similar to LH and is used to stimulate ovulation.
Right now you’re probably wondering how the heck to process all of these names, so let me break it down for you. Without enough FSH and LH, a woman cannot ovulate properly and requires hormone supplements like hMG, rFSH and hCG. Unfortunately, when you are prescribed one of these supplements, it won’t go by its generic name, but by a specific brand name. The most commonly used hMG is Bravelle or Repronex, rFSH is Follistim or Gonal-F, and hCG is Novarell, Ovidrel or Pregnyl.
These hormone supplements are often used in combination with other fertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization or intrauterine insemination. For more information on the process of using gonadotropins, click here. For more on the side effects of using gonadotropins, click here.