Fertility Preservation with Leuprolide Acetate for Women

This information describes using leuprolide acetate (LOO-pro-lyde ASS-e-tate), also known as Lupron®, to attempt to preserve your fertility after chemotherapy. 

Some chemotherapy medications can affect a woman’s fertility (ability to become pregnant). This can make it more difficult to become pregnant in the future and can also cause premature (early) menopause.

Leuprolide acetate is a medication that may protect your ovaries from the effects of chemotherapy. However, studies that have looked at using this medication to protect the ovaries from chemotherapy have had conflicting results. Some show a benefit and some show no benefit, so we don’t know if leuprolide acetate will be helpful for you.

Another option to preserve your fertility is to freeze your eggs or embryos before you begin treatment. If you are interested in learning about this, speak with your cancer doctor to see if this may be an option for you.

How It Is Given

Leuprolide acetate is given by injection (shot) intramuscularly (into your muscle).

The medication is usually started 1 to 2 weeks before you begin your chemotherapy. You will also get it once a month during your treatment with chemotherapy. You can get the medication from your own gynecologist or you can get it here at Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK).

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Side Effects

Most of the side effects from leuprolide are similar to what women experience during menopause. This is because the medication causes a decrease in estrogen, like in menopause. These side effects will go away about 6 weeks after your last injection.

  • Irregular vaginal bleeding is common for a few weeks after the first injection. After that time, you will probably have no menstrual periods, but you may have light spotting.
  • Hot flashes and sweating
  • Headache
  • Mood changes
  • Pain or swelling at the injection site
  • Decreased sexual desire
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Tiredness
  • Decreased bone density (bone loss) if used for more than 6 months without hormone replacement
  • Mild nausea (rare)
  • Joint pain

You can prevent some of the side effects by taking a low dose birth control pill during the time you are receiving the injections. Unless you have medical conditions that make taking estrogen unsafe (e.g., a history of breast cancer or a blood clot), speak with your gynecologist about getting a prescription for birth control.

This resource does not cover all possible side effects; others can occur. Please report any problems to your doctor.

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Special Points

  • Some medications can affect the way leuprolide acetate works. Tell your doctor or nurse if you are taking any other medications or have changed medications, including:
    • Medications that require a prescription
    • Medications that don’t require a prescription (over the counter)
    • Herbal remedies
    • Vitamins
    • Dietary supplements
  • Do not take this medication if you are pregnant. Tell your doctor immediately if you think you may be pregnant.
  • If you are sexually active, you should use birth control while on this medication. Make an appointment with your gynecologist, and speak with him or her about choosing an option that will be safe and effective for you.
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Call Your Doctor or Nurse if You Have:

  • Heavy bleeding or regular periods after 2 treatments
  • A sudden headache
  • Vomiting
  • Change in your vision
  • Any unexpected or unexplained problems
  • Any questions or concerns
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