DHEA is popularly known as an anti-aging hormone. Many older people use it to improve their health and to help them feel younger.
The research to date on its health-promoting effects has been impressive, showing it can help improve many conditions.
Now, new research shows a connection between DHEA and fertility. DHEA may actually help women conceive. This is really encouraging, especially in light of it being both safe and natural. Among women taking DHEA, fertility may improve due to an increase in the number of "good-quality" eggs available for fertilization.1
Women Taking DHEA are More Likely to Conceive
In a study, Israeli researchers recruited 33 women who had difficulty conceiving. They were randomly split into two groups, (one control and one treatment) with the treatment group receiving 75 mg of DHEA daily. All women eventually underwent IVF (in vitro fertilization) treatments.
Supplementation began at least six weeks before IVF and continued for up to five months. The result: Women taking DHEA were three times more likely to conceive. In addition, there was a 23% live birth rate in the treatment group compared to a 4% rate in the control group.1
Additional studies show the benefits of taking DHEA for fertility, with one recent study demonstrating improved ovarian function in women over 40.2
DHEA Increases Ovarian Reserve
DHEA is a natural sex hormone produced in the human body. It's used as a precursor to other sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone which are needed for reproduction. DHEA production peaks in a woman's 20s and naturally declines as a woman gets older.
A woman's fertility is based on the age and quality of her eggs. It sounds strange to talk about human eggs in terms of quality, but it's actually a very important concept. In short, the higher the quality of the eggs, the higher the quality of the embryos. Higher-quality embryos are less likely to be miscarried.
Generally speaking, as women age the quality of their eggs declines, making conception more difficult. However, in some cases young women have what's called premature ovarian aging, a condition in which ovaries stop functioning prematurely, leading to a low number of good-quality eggs. This is where DHEA can make a difference.
The mechanism of action is not entirely known, but it's believed that DHEA increases ovarian reserve,1 the number of "good-quality" eggs. So women who are actively trying to conceive may want to keep this in mind, especially women in their late 30s and early 40s.
How to Get DHEA into Your System
DHEA is not something you can obtain from eating food, but luckily it is available as a dietary supplement. If you're seriously considering using DHEA for fertility issues, please first discuss it with your doctor. It may not be appropriate for everyone.
Also, it's very important to undergo blood testing before and during supplementation to monitor levels and determine the appropriate dosing. Safety first, as always!
- Hum Reprod. 2010 Oct;25(10):2496-500.
- Gynecol Endocrinol. 2013 Oct;29(10):940-3.