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DHEA Side Effects and Benefits for Fertility

Medically reviewed by Norbert Gleicher, MD, FACOG, FACS - Written by CHR Staff - Updated on Jun 03, 2019

Are There Any Side Effects of IVF with DHEA for the Mother?

DHEA’s benefits on female fertility have been proven through various studies and research, originally conducted at CHR and later at other institutions. However, like any hormonal treatment, DHEA IVF treatment can have both positive and negative side effects. During the time CHR has been working with DHEA for fertility, we have carefully monitored the side effects of DHEA treatment, and have been impressed by how rarely even the most common side effects seem to occur. We often hear from patients how much better DHEA supplementation makes them feel overall, which is likely explained by increased androgens levels in patients with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR).

Are There Any DHEA Side Effects on Baby?

It is recommended that DHEA supplementation be discontinued once you are pregnant. At CHR, patients are instructed to stop taking DHEA after the second positive pregnancy test, i.e., rising hCG levels. This is not necessarily because DHEA has any negative side effects on the baby; rather, patients do not need DHEA supplementation once pregnant because the body--the placenta, actually--naturally produces more DHEA during pregnancy.

Weighing DHEA Benefits and Risks During IVF Fertility Treatment

Dr. Gleicher discusses the side effects of IVF with DHEA.

What Are the Benefits and Side Effects of DHEA?

Some of the side effects of DHEA supplementation can be considered “side benefits.” Some of our patients with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) who use DHEA to prepare their ovaries for IVF report these “side benefits.”

Side Benefits of DHEA Treatment for IVF

  • Improved overall feeling
  • Feelings of improved physical strength, mental acuity, and memory
  • Improved sex drive

Negative Side Effects of DHEA Treatment With IVF

Negative side effects of DHEA are possible but rare, especially when compared to other fertility drugs’ side effects, and it is important to note that DHEA effects should disappear when DHEA fertility treatment is stopped. These side effects include:

  • Oily skin
  • Acne
  • Hair loss
  • Stomach upset

Although DHEA’s side effects are mild and temporary, CHR strongly discourage patients from self-supplementation. Aside from the potential for DHEA’s side effects, contraindications and drug interactions, to maximize the fertility benefits of DHEA supplementation, close monitoring of androgen and SHBG is necessary, and that is best accomplished with physician’s supervision.

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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