DHEA Supplement May Help Infertility in Women

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An over-the-counter (OTC) supplement called DHEA could improve a woman’s chances of conceiving, according to a Tel Aviv University study. The naturally occurring steroid was effective in women being treated for infertility.

Infertility affects approximately one out of every six couples, according to the American Pregnancy Association. Female infertility factors contribute about 50 percent of all infertility cases, and when female infertility alone is considered, it accounts for about one-third of all infertility cases. The Association estimates that six million women a year deal with infertility in the United States.

These women and others around the world may find help from a steroid hormone available OTC. DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is produced and secreted by the adrenal gland. It serves as precursor to male and female sex hormones (androgens and estrogens). Levels of DHEA begin to decline after age 30 and are reported to be low in some people who have type 2 diabetes, AIDS, adrenal insufficiency, and anorexia.

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A research team at Tel Aviv University lead by Professor Adrian Shulman of the Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Meir Medical Center found a relationship between DHEA and improved chances of getting pregnant in women who were undergoing treatment for infertility. In their study, one group of women received treatment for poor ovulation while another group received the same treatment plus 75 mg daily of a DHEA supplement for 40 days before starting fertility treatment, and continued for up to five months.

The investigators found that the women who received DHEA supplements were three times more likely to conceive than the women who did not take the supplement. The women who took DHEA were also more likely to have a healthy pregnancy and delivery when compared with women in the control group. Specifically, there was a 23 percent live birth rate in the DHEA group compared with a 4 percent rate in the control group. All but one of the pregnancies in the DHEA group ended in healthy deliveries.

Even though DHEA is available OTC, Shulman recommends that women who are interested in using DHEA to conceive should consult their healthcare provider. He hopes further research will uncover why the supplement seems to improve conception in women who have a problem with infertility. He speculated that DHEA “could be affecting components such as the quality of the eggs or the follicles.”

SOURCES:
American Friends of Tel Aviv University news release, July 1, 2010
American Pregnancy Association

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