DHEA & Fertility
DHEA & IVF
DHEA supplementation for women with diminished ovarian reserve (or DOR) has revolutionized the practice of in vitro fertilization. It has vastly improved pregnancy outcomes for women who suffer from premature ovarian aging (or POA) as well as women over 40 whose ovarian reserve is declining as a part of the natural aging process.
The use of DHEA prior to and during IVF cycles was introduced by CHR’s Dr. Norbert Gleicher and Dr. David H. Barad in 2004. Since then, CHR has been active in refining the DHEA treatment protocol and understanding the physiological mechanism of DHEA, ovarian reserve, and female fertility.
Which IVF Patients Should Use DHEA?
At CHR, we typically prescribe 6-8 weeks of DHEA supplementation prior to starting IVF for the following groups of women:
- All women over 40
- Younger women whose ovarian reserve parameters (such as FSH and AMH) indicate that they have diminished ovarian reserve
Since the purpose of DHEA supplementation is to raise the androgen levels in the ovarian environment to its “youthful” normal range, CHR physicians closely monitor the androgen levels while women are on DHEA supplementation. One of the earlier CHR studies on DHEA and female fertility showed an impressive doubling of IVF pregnancy rates after DHEA supplementation.
How DHEA Improves IVF Success Rates
DHEA’s beneficial effects on IVF pregnancy rates primarily come from the higher quality and quantity of eggs that women produce in IVF cycles. Women with diminished ovarian reserve tend to have a very small number of poor-quality egg. Poor-quality eggs frequently fail to fertilize, and when they do fertilize, they often develop into poor-quality embryos that stop growing before embryo transfer, fail to implant, or stop developing in the uterus and end in miscarriages. Supplementing with DHEA for at least 6-8 weeks before IVF cycle start improves egg quality and results in overall better IVF outcomes.
"DHEA is revolutionizing infertility care for older women and younger women with prematurely aging ovaries."Dr. Norbert Gleicher
CHR's recent research and clinical experience have demonstrated that DHEA supplementation works by raising androgenandrogen levels in the ovaries to the normal level needed for healthy egg development. Based on this observation, CHR now starts IVF cycles after androgen levels rise to the appropriate levels with DHEA supplementation, in order to ensure that the eggs that are maturing for the IVF cycles have had a chance to develop in the androgen-rich environment.
By exploring and understanding the physiological mechanism of follicle and egg development and DHEA/androgen’s effects on the process, CHR has been able to vastly improve IVF outcomes for women with DOR. Our center is now recognized as the “center of last resort” for women with severely diminished ovarian reserve, and as a result, over half of our patients—who come from all over the world—are now 40 years or older. Practically all of our patients, even those in their twenties or thirties, have some degree of DOR. Even in this difficult-to-treat patient population, our center’s IVF pregnancy rates are quite remarkable, partially because of the way our physicians integrate DHEA supplementation into a comprehensive fertility treatment paradigm designed for each individual patient.
Read more about DHEA Treatment
DHEA (or dehydroepiandrosterone) is a naturally existing hormone that the female body converts into...
CHR studies have found, and others have confirmed, that DHEA restores healthy...
Norbert Gleicher, MD, leads CHR’s clinical and research efforts as Medical Director and Chief Scientist. A world-renowned reproductive endocrinologist, 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.
Last Updated: October 8, 2018