DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone produced by the body's adrenal glands, which are located just above the kidneys. The female body converts DHEA into androgens (such as testosterone or estrogen). Many women turn to DHEA supplements for a wide range of supposed (and unfortunately unproven) benefits. Because testosterone and estrogen production generally declines with age, many believe that supplementing with DHEA might:
- Build up the adrenal gland
- Strengthen the immune system
- Slow natural changes in the body typically come with age
- Increase energy
- Improve mood and memory
- Build up muscle strength
However, many women choose to supplement with DHEA to do one very crucial thing: create a baby. Research conducted at various fertility centers has shown that an androgen-rich environment is crucial to healthy egg production. Because androgen levels in the body naturally decline after the age of 30, many women who suffer from infertility use DHEA supplements to have enough of these hormones again.
In fertility centers, DHEA is used primarily to help women with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR), which occurs either as a consequence of premature ovarian aging (POA) or natural aging.
DOR is an infertility condition characterized by either low numbers of remaining oocytes (eggs) in the ovaries or possibly impaired oocyte development or recruitment. In approximately 10 percent of women, ovarian reserve declines much earlier in life; this is called POA. However, supplementation with DHEA has been shown to reverse the effects of POA.
According to Fertility Authority, the researchers at CHR have published studies showing that DHEA:
- Improves spontaneous pregnancy rates
- Decreases the amount of time that it takes a woman to become pregnant
- Increases the amount of eggs retrieved in in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatments
If you want to have a child but fear that your age might be a deterrent, it may be time to consider DHEA supplements to help you make your move from infertility to pregnancy.