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DHEA Fertility - Latest Research on DHEA & Fertility

Medically reviewed by Norbert Gleicher, MD, FACOG, FACS - Written by CHR Staff - Updated on Apr 22, 2019

DHEA research has been one of the major contributions of CHR to the field of reproductive endocrinology. In fact, CHR was the first fertility center to develop the concept of using DHEA supplementation for treatment of infertility, especially for women with diminished ovarian reserve.

DHEA research at both CHR and elsewhere have shown that supplementation with DHEA, a natural hormone produced in the body, has a number of fertility benefits, including better-quality eggs, higher egg and embryo yields, higher IVF pregnancy rates and lower miscarriage rates. This is why more than a third of the world’s IVF centers now use DHEA in IVF cycles.

CHR Explains


DHEA Research at CHR: A History

The story of DHEA and fertility began in 2004, with a very important lesson, taught to us by one of our 42-year-old patients. This patient had diminished ovarian reserve and failed to produce enough embryos during her IVF cycles. On her own, she started supplementation with DHEA. When her oocyte (egg) yield greatly increased in subsequent IVF cycles, physicians at CHR started to wonder what was going on. She then informed us of her DHEA regimen.

After approximately four months of DHEA supplementation, her 42-year-old ovaries were behaving like those of a much younger woman. Since then, we have been diligently investigating DHEA, steadily publishing our DHEA research results and applying the new knowledge to clinical practice. (In this Today Show segment, Dr. Gleicher and the patient discuss the discovery of DHEA use for female fertility.)

After more than a decade of DHEA research and clinical use, CHR has become much more granular in our understanding of DHEA action and how to use DHEA for IVF cycles. More recent developments in DHEA research at CHR include:

  • Tailoring DHEA protocol to each patient's circumstances
  • Monitoring patients’ progress while DHEA and determining when their ovaries are ready for stimulation for IVF
  • Elucidating the mechanism of DHEA’s beneficial effects on egg quality and quantity


DHEA for Fertility: Mechanism of Action

Mouse model has shown that DHEA improves egg quality and IVF outcomes by enriching the ovarian environment with androgens. Androgen levels decline with age in both men and women. In women, eggs that develop in the ovaries with lower-than-optimal levels of androgens tend to be of lower quality, which is a large part of the reason why older women and women with low ovarian reserve have lower chances of pregnancy. As we explain in more detail on the What is DHEA? page, DHEA is converted into androgens (testosterone) in the body, and this increase in androgens appears to benefit eggs in women with diminished ovarian reserve.

CHR’s DHEA Research and Patents

Rare among private fertility centers, CHR is committed to fertility research and education, which we believe helps us deliver the best, most innovative, up-to-date care to our patients.

Research by CHR's world-renowned physicians — Dr. Norbert Gleicher and Dr. David H. Barad — as well as our PhD-level laboratory staff and statistician appear frequently in the most prestigious medical journals in reproductive medicine. All of our doctors are frequently invited to present their research at international fertility conferences.

CHR publishes research on a wide range of fertility topics, including DHEA's effects on female fertility. Our pioneering and groundbreaking research into DHEA first appeared in the April 2005 issue of Fertility and Sterility, and since then we've continued to research DHEA and its effects on women with DOR.

We are very proud that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has issued us four patents regarding the use of DHEA for infertility. After years of hard work and research, the approval of these patents was a milestone for our research team.

  • #7615544: Method of improving cumulative embryo score and quantity of fertilized oocytes, increasing euploidy rate and of normalizing ovarian function using an androgen such as dehydroepiandrosterone
  • #8067400: Androgen treatment in females
  • #8501718: Androgen treatment in females
  • #8501719: Androgen treatment in females
  • #9375436: Androgen treatment in females

At this point, one of CHR’s research foci is identifying other promising pharmacological agents with similar properties to DHEA. Coenzyme Q1- (CoQ10) has been one such supplement, and we believe there are others with ability to improve IVF outcomes by improving egg quality.


Norbert Gleicher, MD

Norbert Gleicher, MD, FACOG, FACS

Norbert Gleicher, MD, leads CHR’s clinical and research efforts as Medical Director and Chief Scientist. A world-renowned specialist in reproductive endocrinology, Dr. Gleicher has published hundreds of peer-reviewed papers and lectured globally while keeping an active clinical career focused on ovarian aging, immunological issues and other difficult cases of infertility.

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