What is the Connection Between DHEA and Fertility?

Samantha Bangayan

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is naturally produced in the body’s adrenal glands as a steroid hormone. DHEA in women is converted into estrogen, which is necessary for normal reproduction, and low DHEA levels may indicate low estrogen levels that can have a direct effect on fertility. DHEA supplements may provide a fertility boost in such instances. While the mechanism of the supplements is unclear, preliminary research and anecdotal reports affirm a positive connection between DHEA and fertility. DHEA supplements also are used for health issues not related to fertility, including slowing aging, building muscle and easing or preventing depression.

A positive pregnancy test.
A positive pregnancy test.

When women reach their 30s, their bodies house fewer quality eggs. DHEA levels begin to fall about the same time. Combine the two and there is a higher probability of infertility and a higher probability of chromosomal abnormalities in the infants of women who do manage to conceive.

An adult woman's reproductive system.
An adult woman's reproductive system.

DHEA and fertility are directly related in that increasing DHEA levels has been shown to increase the chances of spontaneous conception and the success rate of in vitro fertilization. Other benefits of increased DHEA levels include a healthier pregnancy and childbirth. As of 2011, it’s unclear how DHEA supplements affect a woman’s hormonal system to increase fertility. Researchers and doctors suggest that boosting DHEA levels may augment egg release, increase egg quantity and improve egg quality. Increased DHEA has also been shown to enhance ovary function, decrease the chances of chromosomal abnormalities in older eggs and decrease miscarriage rates.

A woman should consult with a qualified physician if she is considering taking DHEA supplements to increase her fertility. The physician best understands the relationship between DHEA and fertility and can advise on dosage specific to the woman’s body and medical history. Before treatment, the physician will check the woman’s current hormone levels through a saliva test, because supplements may only be effective for women who have below-average DHEA levels. Overdosing on DHEA can also lead to side effects, such as facial hair or acne. During DHEA replacement therapy, the physician will monitor the patient closely, because each person reacts differently depending on her baseline hormone levels.

In addition to the link between DHEA and fertility, DHEA is known for many other health benefits and positive side effects. Many people purchase DHEA at their local pharmacy as an anti-aging supplement. DHEA is also used as a steroid for muscle building and as a cortisol antagonist to counteract depression by protecting the body against high levels of cortisol. Finally, DHEA may also improve mood, cognition, sex drive and episodic memory in some people.

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Discussion Comments


Yes. I am doing fertility preservation right now (I am single, 35) and was told I was "infertile" by a RE at Cornell Weil. I had three follicles and low AMH. I take Maca, L arganine, DHEA (75 mg), wheat grass and royal jelly daily and had NINE follicles in my last scan. Doing IVF next month and will update all on the final result.


@ysmina-- I'm taking DHEA and undergoing IVF. My egg numbers have been rising and I think it's due to the DHEA. So this supplement definitely helps and I urge you to try it. Just check with your doctor at the fertility clinic first because she or he may want you off of it during certain times. Also, keep in mind that it takes a while for DHEA to start working. It took about four months for me to see an increase in my egg count.

All of the side effects of DHEA aren't pleasant unfortunately. I've been noticing more facial hair since using DHEA. So don't be surprised if the same happens to you.


@ysmina-- I'm taking DHEA, but it has only been two weeks. So I'm not being very helpful but I have heard great things about DHEA and fertility and my doctor approved it as well. So I'm hoping that it works.

I'm taking 25mg/day which seems to be right dose based on the articles I read on this topic. The great part about DHEA is that not only does it improve fertility, but it also suppresses appetite and improves mood. It has in my case anyway. I will try and update you on how it goes with the DHEA. Let me know if you start taking it as well.


I think I'm going to take DHEA supplements to increase my chances of conceiving. But I'm wondering, has anyone here used it for fertility and had luck with it?

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