Aging is not the only proces that causes fertility to decline. As a consequence of a mixture of lifestyle-related factors, such as environmental toxins and exposure to oxidative stress, the ability to conceive naturally declines over time.
The progressive decline in women’s fertility after the age of 35 is constantly increasing the number of patients consulting fertility specialists.
Among a wide range of strategies proposed to women close to 40 years in order to improve their chances of getting pregnant, increasing attention has been aimed at treatments with dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), an endogenous adrenal compound produced inadrenal cortex and ovaries.
DHEA is an essential precursor in the production of hormones in the ovaries and it is used (and often abused!) as an anabolic steroid by athletes (who take up to 1500mg DHEA daily – compare this to 75mg recommended for women who are trying to improve egg quality).
DHEA has been reported dozens of times over the past 20 years to improve pregnancy rates and lower miscarriage rates in women with low ovarian reserve (few eggs left). For example, this trial here aimed to evaluate whether supplementation with DHEA would improve IVF outcomes in women over 35 with infertility issues and a normal ovarian reserve.
In a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study, 109 infertile patients aging 36–40 years old were selected to undergo the long protocol for IVF. Eight weeks before starting the IVF cycle, women received 75 mg of DHEA once a day (those in the control group received a placebo).
The idea was to determine the number of clinical pregnancies, live births and miscarriage rates.
At the end of treatment period, women in the DHEA group had a significantly higher live birth rate compared with controls. Conversely, miscarriage rate was higher for patients who received the placebo only.
This study is in concordance with dozens of other studies where DHEA was tested in women with a low ovarian reserve. Without a doubt, DHEA helps improve egg and embryo quality also in women with normal ovarian reserve, those where age is the main factor negatively affecting egg quality.
But wait until egg reserve drops too low to take DHEA?
Is it not generally a good idea for women over 35 who wish to get pregnant to consider supplementing DHEA (given they don’t have PCOS or any androgen-related issues)?
Let me know what you think! Have you been supplementing DHEA, for how long? Have you seen any effects?