DHEA & Fertility

What Is DHEA?

DHEA (or dehydroepiandrosterone) is a naturally existing hormone that the female body converts into androgensandrogens, mainly testosteronetestosterone. Even though androgens are male hormones, they're present in both sexes and are essential in the female body for the production and development of healthy eggs. In an infertility setting, particularly in conjunction with IVF, DHEA is used primarily to treat women with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR), which occurs either as a consequence of premature ovarian aging (POA) or female aging.

How DHEA Works

In summary, DHEA's beneficial effects on female fertility include:

  • Increased IVF pregnancy rates
  • Increased chance of spontaneous conceptions
  • Shortened time to pregnancy
  • Increased quality and quantity of eggs and embryos
  • Decreased risk of miscarriage and chromosomal abnormalitieschromosomal abnormalities in embryos
  • Improved cumulative pregnancy rates in patients under fertility treatment

In 2004, CHR became the first IVF center to introduce DHEA into fertility treatment. Since then, DHEA supplementation has demonstrated remarkable results worldwide. In fact, in a 2010 survey, a third of all IVF centers in the world reported prescribing DHEA to improve pregnancy chances in women with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR).

DHEA & Fertility

Watch Dr. Gleicher explain how DHEA increases your chances of pregnancy.

Many women with severely diminished ovarian reserve come to CHR after they were advised by other fertility centers that their only chance of conception would be with egg donation. After treatment at CHR through IVF and DHEA, a significant number of these women--about a third of them, in fact--have conceived with their own eggs.

How Does DHEA Improve Fertility?

Published research by CHR has shown that women with diminished ovarian reserve (due to advanced age or premature ovarian aging, POA) tend to have abnormally low androgen levels, and that a good androgen level is essential to development of eggs in the ovaries.

"Four top infertility clinics told me I'd never have a baby without using a donor egg. However … five months after starting DHEA [we discovered] I was pregnant!"

DHEA supplementation helps these patients by increasing the androgen levels within their ovarian environments to a normal range, which improves egg quality. High-quality, healthy eggs develop into high-quality embryos, which have better chances of implantation and lower risks of miscarriage.

Through our research, we have found that DHEA supplementation in women with DOR raises androgen (testosterone) levels and increases pregnancy chances via androgen receptors on the developing follicles. Increase in pregnancy chances appear to be particularly pronounced in women whose androgen levels rise successfully after DHEA supplementation.

Read more about DHEA Treatment

Last Updated: November 15, 2014

Additional Resources

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1/3 of women who have been told they need egg donation actually wind up conceiving at the CHR with their own eggs.