Opioids and Infertility-What You and Your Physician Ought to Know

Opioid use is well known as a serous and widespread drawback in ladies of childbearing age, nonetheless, dialogue of its affect on fertility and infertility therapy isn’t mentioned. (Picture supply: iStock)

The use and misuse of opioids within the US have reached epidemic proportions ladies of childbearing age could also be particularly affected. Lots of the penalties have been well-documented, together with abuse, damage, demise from overdose. Nevertheless, the affect of opioids on fertility and infertility therapy is essentially omitted of the dialogue. That should change.

To outline phrases, opiate refers to pure substances that come from opium that’s extracted from the opium poppy. They comprise chemical compounds together with morphine and codeine. Opioids, however, are artificial or semi-synthetic merchandise that work by binding to the identical receptors as opiates. Artificial opioids embrace fentanyl and methadone; oxycodone and hydrocodone are examples of semi-synthetic opioids.

Opioids and fertility

Better consciousness and training for each sufferers and medical doctors are wanted on using opioids amongst men and women contemplating having youngsters or present process infertility therapy. The American Society for Reproductive Medication (ASRM), the skilled society of fertility specialists (reproductive endocrinologists) revealed a particular views and evaluations part on opioids and reproductive drugs within the August 2017 problem of the medical journal Fertility and Sterility.1 The objective was to handle the dangers of opioids to these in search of fertility care, particularly ladies of reproductive age, these “most in danger for opioid accidents and dependancy.”

In response, former ASRM President Richard J. Paulson, MD acknowledged:

“Most reproductive drugs specialists proceed to observe as if it isn’t a phenomenon related to their sufferers even because the epidemic has escalated.” 

He considers the particular part “important studying for all clinicians treating reproductive-age ladies.”

The significance of understanding the affect of opioid use in reproductive drugs

  • There’s a powerful overlap amongst affected person demographics for opioid use dysfunction and fertility therapy. In 2015, greater than 40% of ladies between the ages of 15-44 reported they have been prescribed at the least one opiate prescription.2
  • Pre-conception screening revealed ladies have been extra more likely to have a substance use dysfunction than different circumstances.3
  • Lengthy-term use or misuse of opioids impacts fertility in each women and men. It could additionally trigger sexual dysfunction, lack of libido, and melancholy. All of those circumstances can have an effect on the power to get pregnant and ship a wholesome child.

Opioid use throughout fertility therapy

This class of medication is historically prescribed for ache aid following surgical procedure, an acute damage, or for continual ache. Some ladies who endure surgical procedure or different procedures to appropriate points associated to infertility expertise vital ache for which they’re prescribed opioids.

  • Examine: opioids after egg retrieval

Analysis on opioid prescription patterns following one process – egg retrieval for in vitro fertilization (IVF) – revealed shocking outcomes. The examine was primarily based on a evaluate of medical information for greater than 55,000 ladies over an eleven-year interval. These with a previous analysis of opioid or substance use dysfunction and girls who stuffed a couple of opioid prescription within the 12-week interval earlier than the process have been excluded.

The researchers discovered an obvious “disconnect between anticipated procedural ache and using opioids:” 4

Though general solely 12% of ladies used opioids after egg retrieval. Nevertheless, there was vital geographic variation:

      • 21% of ladies within the South stuffed a prescription
      • solely 5% within the Northeast did so.

Additional, ladies have been extra more likely to fill an opioid prescription if they’d any of the next:

      • temper problems
      • a historical past of getting stuffed a prescription for an anti-depressant 
      • smoked cigarettes.

The researchers concluded that solely a small proportion of ladies present process an egg retrieval process fill an opioid prescription afterward. Nevertheless, those that do “obtain a big amount of opioids.” 

  • A change in observe is really useful

The authors of the examine steered that since most girls tolerate the process with out opioids, “this could immediate physicians who routinely prescribe these medicines to reevaluate this observe.”

Commenting on this analysis introduced on the 2017 ASRM Scientific Congress, ASRM President Christos Coutifaris MD, Ph.D., concluded

“It’s crucial that physicians treating {couples} with infertility not contribute to the widespread opioid abuse disaster. This type of analysis raises our consciousness of the potential for abuse and, hopefully, makes us cautious with our prescription patterns.”

Hopefully, the drastically elevated consideration to the potential risks of opioids will alter doctor prescribing patterns encouraging them to seek out alternate options or sharply restrict the timeframe to be used and quantity of drug prescribed.

  • Discovering alternate options to opioids

It’s critically essential that physicians talk about alternate options to utilizing opioids after surgical procedure. It is because “current information counsel that opioid publicity after different surgical procedures confers an elevated threat for continual opioid use” As well as, it poses in danger for relapse for these with a former opioid use dysfunction.

Options to opioids for post-operative ache embrace:

      • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicine
      • acetaminophen (e.g. Tylenol)
      • different adjunctive medicines (not usually used for ache however useful for administration) 
      • regional anesthetic blocks.

A wide range of methods to cut back opioid use earlier than and after medical procedures is mentioned within the following article: Perioperative Ache Administration Methods Amongst Ladies Having Reproductive Surgical procedures.5

Opioid substance use dysfunction and infertility

The stress of receiving a analysis of infertility and present process therapy could make sufferers “susceptible to anxiousness and melancholy, rising their threat of growing a substance use dysfunction (SUD)” in line with Tricia Wright, MD, MS in her 2017 paper in Fertility and Sterility.Additional, she notes that pre-conception screening reveals,

“substance use problems are extra frequent than many different circumstances and problems in ladies making an attempt to conceive”.

Misuse of opioids consists of the next conditions:

      • continued use after the really useful time interval
      • taking the drug unrelated to any prescribed purpose 
      • utilizing a avenue model 
  • An obligation to display sufferers

Dr. Wright says opioid abuse can “worsen infertility, complicate being pregnant, enhance medical issues, and result in psychosocial difficulties for the lady and her household.”

Given these severe penalties, she believes that reproductive endocrinologists have an “moral and medical responsibility to display sufferers” for such problems, in addition to present preliminary counseling and referrals to specialised therapy.

As physicians treating ladies who’re planning to turn out to be pregnant, she provides her colleagues are 

“properly positioned to assist their sufferers keep away from the implications of SUDs (substance use problems) in being pregnant, equivalent to pre-term delivery, low delivery weight, delivery defects, developmental delays, miscarriage, and neonatal abstinence syndrome.” 6

  • Therapy of dependancy in fertility sufferers

On the identical time, some opioids – equivalent to methadone – are used to deal with dependancy. If somebody is on this kind of drug as a part of dependancy therapy, they need to talk about the affect on fertility with their dependancy counselor and different related well being professionals. Some therapies are much less dangerous to fertility than others and needs to be thought-about.

ASRM acknowledges there’s little data on the therapy of opioid use dysfunction among the many infertility inhabitants. The very best method could also be to be taught from the profitable therapy of pregnant sufferers with the situation.

How do opioids have an effect on fertility?

Analysis exhibits that opioid use impacts the endocrine system. This consists of the hypothalamic-pituitary axis that controls the manufacturing of intercourse hormones.

  • Opioid-related hormonal suppression

Opioid-related hormonal suppression can result in inappropriately low ranges of gonadotropins:

      • follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH)
      • luteinizing hormone (LH).

There’s additionally insufficient manufacturing of intercourse hormones, significantly testosterone which performs a task in female and male copy.

Opioids have an effect on the feminine reproductive system together with ovarian follicles and oocytes (immature egg cells). They could additionally have an effect on the endometrium (tissue lining the uterus) and myometrium (center layer of the uterine wall).7 All of those buildings play a task in being pregnant.

  • Influence of opioids on being pregnant outcomes

Hormonal suppression might consequence within the following:

      • menstrual irregularities
      • potential issues getting pregnant
      • miscarriages 
      • pregnancy-related points together with:
          • pre-term delivery,
          • low delivery weight,
          • delivery defects and
          • developmental delays.
  • Opioid affect on male copy

Utilizing opioids long run can disrupt the alerts controlling the manufacturing of testosterone leading to low testosterone manufacturing. This in flip can lower each the amount and high quality of sperm. The precise affect is determined by the drug used, the dose, and the size of time it was taken.

Low testosterone additionally impacts male libido. In a single examine, 20 p.c of males on long-term, excessive dose opioids had proof of sexual dysfunction.8 The researchers counsel the identical can also be true for ladies however “proof is scarce.”

There isn’t a proof that short-term use of opioids has a destructive impact on male fertility. So, if the drug is taken to manage ache after surgical procedure or a damaged bone, a affected person ought to observe directions to take solely as prescribed.

Males who’re taking opioids for weeks or months ought to discuss to their physician about slicing again. Opioid-induced hypogonadism is usually a complication of long-term therapeutic use – for continual ache or dependancy – or unlawful use.9Specialists counsel if this happens that “nonopioid ache administration, opioid rotation, or hormone supplementation” needs to be tried after “cautious consideration of the dangers and advantages.” 10

Suggestions for medical doctors and sufferers

Your fertility specialist ought to work with you and your companion to know how quite a lot of constructive and destructive life-style habits have an effect on your capacity to get pregnant and ship a wholesome child. The usage of opioids – whether or not prescribed for a particular situation or due to a substance use dysfunction – needs to be mentioned.

Good patient-doctor communication needs to be two-way. In actual fact, a 2015 FDA security report on opioids urges sufferers to report signs which may be associated to copy to their medical doctors,11 together with

      • lack of menstruation
      • low libido
      • erectile dysfunction 
      • infertility to their medical doctors.
  • Suggestions for medical doctors

Opioids are ceaselessly prescribed for continual ache. You will need to be cognizant of the overlap in affected person demographics for misuse and fertility therapy. That being stated, there are essential methods to enhance affected person take care of these sufferers, together with: 

      • discovering alternate options to prescribe for ache aid or dependancy therapy
      • add opioid screening to affected person evaluation
      • monitor sufferers for opioid use
      • handle endocrine issues together with routine screening for points and for laboratory abnormalities in intercourse hormones.
  • Recommendation for sufferers

Should you want ache aid from surgical procedure, talk about alternate options to opioids. If therapy for opioid use dysfunction is required, your doctor can provide or organize counseling – typically by your fertility clinic and/or present a referral to specialised therapy.

  • Info for ladies planning a being pregnant

To deal with the “distinctive wants” of a lady planning a being pregnant who additionally requires therapy for opioid use dysfunction there are 4 “overlapping domains of therapy:

        • treatment administration,
        • medical care,
        • behavioral and psychological well being care, and
        • psychosocial assist.”

That is mentioned in additional element right here: Therapies for Opioid Use Dysfunction Amongst Pregnant and Reproductive-Aged Ladies.12

The underside line 

Present process therapy for infertility is difficult for sufferers. There are various life-style habits to observe or change to be able to maximize your possibilities for achievement. As opioid use might have an effect on the probabilities of getting pregnant and delivering a wholesome child, consciousness and training needs to be a part of the partnership between hopeful parents-to-be and their medical doctors.


  1. Varied. Desk of Contents: Views and Critiques: Particular Part on Opioids and Reproductive Medication. Fertility and Sterility, Aug. 1, 2017, vol 108, problem 2. https://www.fertstert.org/problem/S0015-0282(16)X0022-2
  2. Terplan M. Ladies and the opioid disaster: historic context and public well being options, Views and Critiques, Fertility and Sterility, Aug 1, 2017, vol 108, problem 2. https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(17)30431-4/fulltext
  3. Wright T, Screening, transient intervention, and referral to therapy for opioid and different substance use throughout infertility therapy, Views and Critiques, Fertility and Sterility, Aug. 1, 2017, vol 108, problem 2. https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(17)30436-3/fulltext 
  4.  Bortoletto P, Prabhu M, Garry E, et al. Opioid prescribing patterns after egg retrieval, Fertility and Sterility, Sept. 1, 2017, vol 108, problem 3. https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(17)30724-0/fulltext
  5. Prabhu M. Bortoletto P, Bateman B. Perioperative ache administration methods amongst ladies having reproductive surgical procedures, Fertility and Sterility, Aug. 1, 2017, vol 108, problem 2. https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(17)30434-X/fulltext
  6. Kocherlakota P. Neonatal abstinence syndrome. Pediatrics, Aug. 2014, vol 134, problem 2.
  7. Böttcher B, Seeber B, Leyendecker D, et al. Influence of the opioid systm on the reproductive axis, Fertility and Sterility, Aug. 1, 2017, vol 108, problem 2. https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(17)30433-8/fulltext
  8. Sexual dysfunction and long-term opioid use. Medical Information Immediately, https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/260580 Accessed 1/10/20
  9. Male Hypogonadism. Mayo Clinic, https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/male-hypogonadism/symptoms-causes/syc-20354881 Accessed 1/10/20
  10. Katz N, Mazar N. The Influence of Opioids on the Endocrine System, The Medical Journal of Ache, 2009, vol 25, problem 2. https://journals.lww.com/clinicalpain/Summary/2009/02000/The_Impact_of_Opioids_on_the_Endocrine_System.15.aspx#article-abstract-content1
  11. FDA Drug Security Communication: FDA warns about a number of questions of safety with opioid ache medicines; requires label adjustments, FDA, 3/22/16.  https://www.fda.gov/medicine/drug-safety-and-availability/fda-drug-safety-communication-fda-warns-about-several-safety-issues-opioid-pain-medicines-requires

  12. Hand, D, Brief V, Abatemarco V. Therapies for Opioid Use Dysfunction amongst Pregnant and Reproductive Aged Ladies, Fertility and Sterility, Aug. 1, 2017, Vol 108, problem 2. https://www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(17)30435-1/fulltext

Printed 9/9/18. Up to date by the writer on 1/9/21 for republication.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *