Do DHEA hormone supplements improve infertility treatment outcomes?

In a nutshell

This study looked at the impact of DHEA supplements on the outcomes of in vitro fertilization (IVF) in women over age 35. This study found that DHEA improved IVF outcomes for these women.

Some background

IVF is a standard treatment for infertility that uses hormones to stimulate the ovaries. Women who do not produce many oocytes (eggs) in response to these hormones are said to have a poor ovarian response (POR). Some women may have diminished ovarian reserve, an indication of having fewer eggs. It can be more challenging to treat infertility in women with POR. 

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone made in the body that is used to make estrogen and testosterone. Research indicates DHEA supplements may improve ovarian response in women with POR. Whether DHEA supplements can help improve IVF outcomes for these patients is unclear.

Methods & findings

This study looked at records of 297 IVF cycles from 209 women. All patients had both POR and diminished ovarian reserve. 159 patients received a DHEA supplement three times daily for 3 months prior to IVF. 138 patients did not receive DHEA (control group).

Significantly more oocytes (eggs) were retrieved from patients who received DHEA (3.1 vs. 1.9). Patients who received DHEA had significantly more day 3 embryos (1.9 vs 1.3). A day 3 embryo is an embryo that has formed at 3 days after fertilization. Patients who received DHEA were also more likely to become pregnant (17.6% vs 11.6%).

No major side effects were reported. 3.1% of patients experienced acne.

Methods & findings
The bottom line

This study found that DHEA supplements improved IVF outcomes for women over 35 with POR and diminished ovarian reserve.

The fine print

This study included a small number of patients. Larger studies are needed to confirm these results.

What’s next?

Talk to your doctor about the potential benefits of supplements such as DHEA.

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Published By: Frontiers in Endocrinology
Date: Nov 11, 2020
Original Title: Dehydroepiandrosterone Supplementation Improves the Outcomes of in vitro Fertilization Cycles in Older Patients With Diminished Ovarian Reserve.

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