DHEA Treatment for Infertility

By Robyn Nazar, RN BSN

The use of DHEA treatment is an emerging development in the treatment of infertility for women. Studies are showing significant results in improving pregnancy rates in women with premature ovarian failure, advanced maternal age, and diminished ovarian reserves. Treatment programs are beginning to surface and their great success is pioneering the way to make DHEA a standard treatment practice for infertility.

What is DHEA?
DHEA is an abbreviation for dehydroepiandrosterone, a natural steroid hormone produced abundantly by the adrenal gland. Circulating DHEA is converted by the body into testosterone. It is available in an over-the-counter supplement form has been studied for its effects on the female reproductive system as well as cognitive function, mood, longevity, lupus, menopause, muscle growth and osteoporosis. Although available over the counter, DHEA treatment should be carefully monitored by a physician. Inappropriate DHEA use can halt ovulation, alter one’s menstrual cycle and cause undesirable side effects including excessive hair growth and acne.

How does DHEA relate to infertility?
Every woman is born with a finite number of eggs available for reproductive potential. As a woman ages her supply, or reserve, of eggs slowly decreases. Typically, by age 35 a woman’s reserve begins to drop dramatically. When the egg supply becomes very low, it is called diminished ovarian reserves (DOR). DOR is one of the most common causes of infertility in women over the age of 35. However, in some cases women under 35 may experience premature diminished ovarian reserves. One notable cause of DOR is decreased DHEA levels. Aging, stress, genetics and other lifestyle factors can negatively affect the production of DHEA, thus resulting in impaired reproductive system.


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Positive Effects Of DHEA
Supplementation on Fertility
A study published by Tel Aviv University in 2010 showed that women who received DHEA supplements were three times more likely to become pregnant than those who did not. The women in the study who were given DHEA had a pregnancy success rate of 23% as opposed to the control group success rate of 4%.They also discovered that of those who go pregnant in both groups, the DHEA group had significantly healthier pregnancies and deliveries.

The Center for Human Reproduction in New York has also released several studies on DHEA. Their findings have shown that DHEA significantly improves ovarian reserves as well as reduces miscarriage rates in DOR patients. Here are some of the positive fertility effects of DHEA treatment that this infertility center has reported:

  • Increases egg and embryo counts
  • Improves egg and embryo quality
  • Decreases amount of time to achieve pregnancy in fertility treatment
  • Increases spontaneous pregnancy rates
  • Improves IVF pregnancy rates
  • Decreases miscarriage rates
  • Decreases rates of chromosomally abnormal embryos

Although the research still remains preliminary, these findings hold great promise for the future of infertility. DHEA supplementation should not be used as a fertility treatment without the supervision of infertility physicians experienced in DHEA treatment programs.

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