Potential Downsides of DHEA Supplementation: Why take the Risk?

 Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), is steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands and ovary. It is involved in producing the male hormones, androstenedione testosterone and also estrogen. DHEA blood levels tend to decline naturally with age.

Under the effect of luteinizing hormone (LH), DHEA is metabolized to testosterone in ovarian connective tissue (theca/stroma). Thereupon the testosterone is transported to the granulosa cells that form the innermost layer of the ovarian follicles where, under the influence of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)-induced desmolase and aromatase enzymatic activity the testosterone is converted to estradiol. As this happens, granulosa cells multiply, follicle fluid volume increases along with estrogen output and egg development is promoted.

It is recognition of the essential/indispensable role that male hormones (mainly testosterone) play in follicle and egg development that prompted the belief that by giving DHEA and boosting ovarian testosterone production might benefit follicle/egg development. This belief was given some credence by an Israeli study that in 2010 reported on improved fertility when a group of infertile women were given the administration of 75mg of oral DHEA for 5 months. However, this study was seriously flawed by the fact that it did not separate out women who had diminished ovarian reserve, older women and those with PCOS, all of whom have increased LH-induced production of testosterone. In fact, we recently completed a study (currently being processed for publication) where we conclusively showed that when follicular fluid testosterone levels exceeded a certain threshold, egg quality was seriously prejudiced as evidenced by a marked increase in the incidence of egg chromosomal defects (aneuploidy).

Consider the following: Ovarian testosterone is needed for follicular development. However, the amount required is small. Too much ovarian testosterone spills over into the folicular fluid and has a deleterious effect on egg/follicle development. Some women (women with diminished ovarian reserve –DOR, older women and those with polycystic ovarian syndrome-PCOS) who tend to have increased LH biological activity, already over-produce testosterone. To such women, the administration of DHEA to such women, by “adding fuel to the fire” can be decidedly prejudicial, in my opinion. Young women with normal ovarian reserve do not over produce LH-induced ovarian testosterone, and are thus probably not at significant risk from DHEA supplementation. It is noteworthy that to date, none of the studies that suggest a benefit from DHEA therapy have differentiated between young healthy normal women with normal ovarian reserve on the one hand and olderf women, those with DOR and women with PCOS on the other hand.

In some countries, DHEA treatment requires a medical prescription and medical supervision. This is not the case in the U.S.A, where it can be bought over the counter. Since DHEA is involved in sex hormone production, including testosterone and estrogen, individuals with malignant conditions that may be hormone dependent (certain types of breast cancer or testicular cancer) should not receive DHEA supplementation. Also, if overdosed with DHEA some “sensitive women” might so increase their blood concentrations of testosterone that they develop increased aggressive tendencies or male characteristics such as hirsuites (increased hair growth) and a deepening voice. DHEA can also interact other medications, such as barbiturates, corticosteroids, insulin and with other oral diabetic medications.

BUT the strongest argument against the use of routine DHEA supplementation is the potential risk of compromising egg quality in certain categories of women and since there is presently no convincing evidence of any benefit, why take the risk in using it on anyone.

Finally, for those who in spite of the above, still feel compelled to take DHEA, the best advice I can give is to consult their health care providers before starting the process.

Addendum: One potential advantage of DHEA therapy if used appropriately came from a study conducted by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MI and reported in the November 2004 issue of the “Journal of the American Medical Association” which showed that judicious (selective) administration of 50mg DHEA daily for 6 months resulted in a significant reduction of abdominal fat and blood insulin in elderly women.

28 Comments

Flavia

Dear Dr Sher

Do you know if PREGNENOLONE is a better alternative to DHEA? It seems “gentler“ to me at raising testosterone, and overall a better supplement, but I am not medically trained. Many ladies use it instead of DHEA
Any clarification would be very much appreciated

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

They are 2 completely different substances. I would NOT recommend either.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), is steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands and ovary. It is involved in producing the male hormones, androstenedione testosterone and also estrogen. DHEA blood levels tend to decline naturally with age.
Under the effect if luteinizing hormone (LH), DHEA is metabolized to testosterone in ovarian connective tissue (theca/stroma). Thereupon the testosterone is transported to the granulosa cells that form the innermost layer of the ovarian follicles where, under the influence of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)-induced desmolase and aromatase enzymatic activity the testosterone is converted to estradiol. As this happens, granulosa cells multiply, follicle fluid volume increases along with estrogen output and egg development is promoted.
It is recognition of the essential/indispensable role that male hormones (mainly testosterone) play in follicle and egg development that prompted the belief that by giving DHEA and boosting ovarian testosterone production might benefit follicle/egg development. This belief was given some credence by an Israeli study that in 2010 reported on improved fertility when a group of infertile women were given the administration of 75mg of oral DHEA for 5 months. However, this study was seriously flawed by the fact that it did not separate out women who had diminished ovarian reserve, older women and those with PCOS, all of whom have increased LH-induced production of testosterone. In fact, we recently completed a study (currently being processed for publication) where we conclusively showed that when follicular fluid testosterone levels exceeded a certain threshold, egg quality was seriously prejudiced as evidenced by a marked increase in the incidence of egg chromosomal defects (aneuploidy).
Consider the following: Ovarian testosterone is needed for follicular development. However, the amount required is small. Too much ovarian testosterone spills over into the follicular fluid and has a deleterious effect on egg/follicle development. Some women (women with diminished ovarian reserve –DOR, older women and those with polycystic ovarian syndrome-PCOS) who tend to have increased LH biological activity, already over-produce testosterone. To such women, the administration of DHEA to such women, by “adding fuel to the fire” can be decidedly prejudicial, in my opinion. Young women with normal ovarian reserve do not over produce LH-induced ovarian testosterone, and are thus probably not at significant risk from DHEA supplementation. It is noteworthy that to date, none of the studies that suggest a benefit from DHEA therapy have differentiated between young healthy normal women with normal ovarian reserve on the one hand and older women, those with DOR and women with PCOS on the other hand.

In Some countries DHEA treatment requires a medical prescription and medical supervision. Not so in the U.S.A where it can be bought over the counter. Since DHEA is involved in sex hormone production, including testosterone and estrogen, individuals with malignant conditions that may be hormone dependent (certain types of breast cancer or testicular cancer) should not receive DHEA supplementation. Also, if overdosed with DHEA some “sensitive women” might so increase their blood concentrations of testosterone that they develop increased aggressive tendencies or male characteristics such as hirsuites (increased hair growth) and a deepening voice. DHEA can also interact other medications, such as barbiturates, corticosteroids, insulin and with other oral diabetic medications.
BUT the strongest argument against the use of routine DHEA supplementation is the potential risk of compromising egg quality in certain categories of women and since there is presently no convincing evidence of any benefit, why take the risk in using it on anyone.
Finally, for those who in spite of the above, still feel compelled to take DHEA, the best advice I can give is to consult their health care providers before starting the process.

Addendum: One potential advantage of DHEA therapy if used appropriately came from a study conducted by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MI and reported in the November 2004 issue of the “Journal of the American Medical Association” which showed that judicious (selective) administration of 50mg DHEA daily for 6 months resulted in a significant reduction of abdominal fat and blood insulin in elderly women.

Geoff Sher

.

reply
Talia

Please help. DHEA has stopped my period for over 8 weeks. I am 42 years old and wish to do my first ivf, unfortunately I can’t with the delay of my period. It’s been over 7 weeks since I stopped taking dhea and no period. I’m worried I may have made myself sterile. How long should I give it and what can I do to help? I took dhea for 8 weeks before stopping. Thank you.

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Hi talia,

While I personally am not in favor of the use of DHEA, I really doubt that this is what has caused the cessation of your periods. Your Re needs to evaluate this for you.

Here is my take on the use of DHEA:

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), is steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands and ovary. It is involved in producing the male hormones, androstenedione testosterone and also estrogen. DHEA blood levels tend to decline naturally with age.
Under the effect if luteinizing hormone (LH), DHEA is metabolized to testosterone in ovarian connective tissue (theca/stroma). Thereupon the testosterone is transported to the granulosa cells that form the innermost layer of the ovarian follicles where, under the influence of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)-induced desmolase and aromatase enzymatic activity the testosterone is converted to estradiol. As this happens, granulosa cells multiply, follicle fluid volume increases along with estrogen output and egg development is promoted.
It is recognition of the essential/indispensable role that male hormones (mainly testosterone) play in follicle and egg development that prompted the belief that by giving DHEA and boosting ovarian testosterone production might benefit follicle/egg development. This belief was given some credence by an Israeli study that in 2010 reported on improved fertility when a group of infertile women were given the administration of 75mg of oral DHEA for 5 months. However, this study was seriously flawed by the fact that it did not separate out women who had diminished ovarian reserve, older women and those with PCOS, all of whom have increased LH-induced production of testosterone. In fact, we recently completed a study (currently being processed for publication) where we conclusively showed that when follicular fluid testosterone levels exceeded a certain threshold, egg quality was seriously prejudiced as evidenced by a marked increase in the incidence of egg chromosomal defects (aneuploidy).
Consider the following: Ovarian testosterone is needed for follicular development. However, the amount required is small. Too much ovarian testosterone spills over into the follicular fluid and has a deleterious effect on egg/follicle development. Some women (women with diminished ovarian reserve –DOR, older women and those with polycystic ovarian syndrome-PCOS) who tend to have increased LH biological activity, already over-produce testosterone. To such women, the administration of DHEA to such women, by “adding fuel to the fire” can be decidedly prejudicial, in my opinion. Young women with normal ovarian reserve do not over produce LH-induced ovarian testosterone, and are thus probably not at significant risk from DHEA supplementation. It is noteworthy that to date, none of the studies that suggest a benefit from DHEA therapy have differentiated between young healthy normal women with normal ovarian reserve on the one hand and older women, those with DOR and women with PCOS on the other hand.

In Some countries DHEA treatment requires a medical prescription and medical supervision. Not so in the U.S.A where it can be bought over the counter. Since DHEA is involved in sex hormone production, including testosterone and estrogen, individuals with malignant conditions that may be hormone dependent (certain types of breast cancer or testicular cancer) should not receive DHEA supplementation. Also, if overdosed with DHEA some “sensitive women” might so increase their blood concentrations of testosterone that they develop increased aggressive tendencies or male characteristics such as hirsuites (increased hair growth) and a deepening voice. DHEA can also interact other medications, such as barbiturates, corticosteroids, insulin and with other oral diabetic medications.
BUT the strongest argument against the use of routine DHEA supplementation is the potential risk of compromising egg quality in certain categories of women and since there is presently no convincing evidence of any benefit, why take the risk in using it on anyone.
Finally, for those who in spite of the above, still feel compelled to take DHEA, the best advice I can give is to consult their health care providers before starting the process.

Addendum: One potential advantage of DHEA therapy if used appropriately came from a study conducted by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MI and reported in the November 2004 issue of the “Journal of the American Medical Association” which showed that judicious (selective) administration of 50mg DHEA daily for 6 months resulted in a significant reduction of abdominal fat and blood insulin in elderly women.

Geoff Sher
PH: 702-533-2691

reply
Flavia

Dear Dr Sher

Thank you for the informative article. I hope you could clarify one point please… what is the maximum level of total testosterone in plasma before egg quality is compromised?

Kind Regards
Flavia

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

That is not possible to say because the level of testosterone in the ovary (where it is produced) is what counts, and the ovarian concentration is 3-10 times the level in the peripheral blood depending on individual circumstances. Since we measure the testosterone in the peripheral blood, it is always diluted out and under-representative of ovarian levels.

Geoff Sher.

reply
Freya

Dear Dr Sher

Is it safe to start ivf after stopping DHEA for a month? I have been taking it for 7 weeks, my testosterone came back as 3.1 nmol, above the normal range max which is 2.43 nmol.

My testosterone has always been at the very bottom of the normal range , and although I don’t have DOR (AMH of 12.17 pmol) I make less eggs for a woman of my age (7 eggs at 34 with a long protocol with burselin and gonal f -no blasts- and 12 eggs at 35 with menopur which gave a pregnancy that ended in early miscarriage in March). My reason for ivf is male factor infertility . I am worried that I may have compromised my egg quality for the next three months by taking DHEA

Your thoughts would be very much appreciated

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

I think you will be fine having discontinued for a few weeks.

Geoff Sher

reply
Tina Bhattacharyya

Dr Sher

I have had 3 egg collections with one egg collected each time. I am 34 years old with DOR and last July I had a laparoscopy for stage 4 Endometriosis. I managed to get pregnant through IVF in February but miscarried at 9 weeks and had to have a D&C procedure. Before my next egg collection and IVF (July) I have had my DHEA levels checked as I am on a mission to improve my egg quality – the results were in the abnormal range so I started to supplement 75mg/day. However, my cycles have actually shortened- I recently had a scan to see if there was any issues related to the D&C and it showed at 4cm cyst on my left ovary. I was told not to worry and keep taking DHEA but I’m concerned that this is what’s causing the cyst? After reading your blog I’m worried that I’ve compromised my next round of IVF by taking DHEA which I have now taken for 3 weeks.

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Consider the following:
A. Endomertriosis and IVF:

When women with infertility due to endometriosis seek treatment, they are all too often advised to first try ovarian stimulation (ovulation Induction) with intrauterine insemination (IUI) ………as if to say that this would be just as likely to result in a baby as would in vitro fertilization (IVF). Nothing could be further from reality It is time to set the record straight. And hence this communication!
Bear in mind that the cost of treatment comprises both financial and emotional components and that it is the cost of having a baby rather than cost of a procedure. Then consider the fact that regardless of her age or the severity of the condition, women with infertility due to endometriosis are several fold more likely to have a baby per treatment cycle of IVF than with IUI. It follows that there is a distinct advantage in doing IVF first, rather than as a last resort.
So then, why is it that ovulation induction with or without IUI is routinely offered proposed preferentially to women with mild to moderately severe endometriosis? Could it in part be due to the fact that most practicing doctors do not provide IVF services but are indeed remunerated for ovarian stimulation and IUI services and are thus economically incentivized to offer IUI as a first line approach? Or is because of the often erroneous belief that the use of fertility drugs will in all cases induce the release (ovulation) of multiple eggs at a time and thereby increase the chance of a pregnancy. The truth however is that while normally ovulating women (the majority of women who have mild to moderately severe endometriosis) respond to ovarian stimulation with fertility drugs by forming multiple follicles, they rarely ovulate > 1 (or at most 2) egg at a time. This is because such women usually only develop a single dominant follicle which upon ovulating leaves the others intact. This is the reason why normally ovulating women who undergo ovulation induction usually will not experience improved pregnancy potential, nor will they have a marked increase in multiple pregnancies. Conversely, non-ovulating women (as well as those with dysfunctional ovulation) who undergo ovulation induction, almost always develop multiple large follicles that tend to ovulate in unison. This increases the potential to conceive along with an increased risk multiple pregnancies.

So let me take a stab at explaining why IVF is more successful than IUI or surgical correction in the treatment of endometriosis-related infertility:
1. The toxic pelvic factor: Endometriosis is a condition where the lining of the uterus (the endometrium) grows outside the uterus. While this process begins early in the reproductive life of a woman, with notable exceptions, it only becomes manifest in the 2ndhalf of her reproductive life. After some time, these deposits bleed and when the blood absorbs it leaves a visible pigment that can be identified upon surgical exposure of the pelvis. Such endometriotic deposits invariably produce and release toxins” into the pelvic secretions that coat the surface of the membrane (the peritoneum) that envelops all abdominal and pelvic organs, including the uterus, tubes and ovaries. These toxins are referred to as “the peritoneal factor”. Following ovulation, the egg(s) must pass from the ovary (ies), through these toxic secretions to reach the sperm lying in wait in the outer part the fallopian tube (s) tube(s) where, the sperm lie in waiting. In the process of going from the ovary(ies) to the Fallopian tube(s) these eggs become exposed to the “peritoneal toxins” which alter s the envelopment of the egg (i.e. zona pellucida) making it much less receptive to being fertilized by sperm. As a consequence, if they are chromosomally normal such eggs are rendered much less likely to be successfully fertilized. Since almost all women with endometriosis have this problem, it is not difficult to understand why they are far less likely to conceive following ovulation (whether natural or induced through ovulation induction). This “toxic peritoneal factor impacts on eggs that are ovulated whether spontaneously (as in natural cycles) or following the use of fertility drugs and serves to explain why the chance of pregnancy is so significantly reduced in normally ovulating women with endometriosis.
2. The Immunologic Factor: About one third of women who have endometriosis will also have an immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID) linked to activation of uterine natural killer cells (NKa). This will require selective immunotherapy with Intralipid infusions, and/or heparinoids (e.g. Clexane/Lovenox) that is much more effectively implemented in combination with IVF.
3. Surgical treatment of mild to moderate endometriosis does not usually improve pregnancy potential:. The reason is that endometriosis can be considered to be a “work in progress”. New lesions are constantly developing. So it is that for every endometriotic seen there are usually many non-pigmented deposits that are in the process of evolving but are not yet visible to the naked eye and such evolving (non-visible) lesions can also release the same “toxins that compromise fertilization. Accordingly, even after surgical removal of all visible lesions the invisible ones continue to release “toxins” and retain the ability to compromise natural fertilization. It also explains why surgery to remove endometriotic deposits in women with mild to moderate endometriosis usually will fail to significantly improve pregnancy generating potential. In contrast, IVF, by removing eggs from the ovaries prior to ovulation, fertilizing these outside of the body and then transferring the resulting embryo(s) to the uterus, bypasses the toxic pelvic environment and is therefore is the treatment of choice in cases of endometriosis-related infertility.
4. Ovarian Endometriomas: Women, who have advanced endometriosis, often have endometriotic ovarian cysts, known as endometriomas. These cysts contain decomposed menstrual blood that looks like melted chocolate…hence the name “chocolate cysts”. These space occupying lesions can activate ovarian connective tissue (stroma or theca) resulting in an overproduction of male hormones (especially testosterone). An excess of ovarian testosterone can severely compromise follicle and egg development in the affected ovary. Thus there are two reasons for treating endometriomas. The first is to alleviate symptoms and the second is to optimize egg and embryo quality. Conventional treatment of endometriomas involves surgical drainage of the cyst contents with subsequent removal of the cyst wall (usually by laparoscopy), increasing the risk of surgical complications. We recently reported on a new, effective and safe outpatient approach to treating endometriomas in women planning to undergo IVF. We termed the treatment ovarian Sclerotherapy. The process involves; needle aspiration of the “chocolate colored liquid content of the endometriotic cyst, followed by the injection of 5% tetracycline hydrochloride into the cyst cavity. Such treatment will, more than 75% of the time result in disappearance of the lesion within 6-8 weeks. Ovarian sclerotherapy can be performed under local anesthesia or under conscious sedation. It is a safe and effective alternative to surgery for definitive treatment of recurrent ovarian endometriomas in a select group of patients planning to undergo IVF

I am not suggesting that all women with infertility-related endometriosis should automatically resort to IVF. Quite to the contrary…. In spite of having reduced fertility potential, many women with mild to moderate endometriosis can and do go on to conceive on their own (without treatment). It is just that the chance of this happening is so is much lower than normal.
IN SUMMARY: For young ovulating women (< 35 years of age ) with endometriosis, who have normal reproductive anatomy and have fertile male partners, expectant treatment is often preferable to IUI or IVF. However, for older women, women who (regardless of their age) have any additional factor (e.g. pelvic adhesions, ovarian endometriomas, male infertility, IID or diminished ovarian reserve-DOR) IVF should be the primary treatment of choice. B. DOR: Women who (regardless of age) have diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) have a reduced potential for IVF success. Much of this is due to the fact that such women tend to have increased production, and/or biological activity, of LH. This can result in excessive ovarian male hormone (predominantly testosterone) production. This in turn can have a deleterious effect on egg/embryo “competency”. While it is presently not possible by any means, to reverse the effect of DOR, certain ovarian stimulation regimes, by promoting excessive LH production (e.g. short agonist/Lupron- “flare” protocols, clomiphene and Letrozole), can in my opinion, make matters worse. Similarly, the amount/dosage of certain fertility drugs that contain LH/hCG (e.g. Menopur) can have a negative effect on the development of the eggs of older women and those who have DOR and should be limited. I try to avoid using such protocols/regimes (especially) in women with DOR, favoring instead the use of the agonist/antagonist conversion protocol (A/ACP), a modified, long pituitary down-regulation regime, augmented by adding supplementary human growth hormone (HGH). I further recommend that such women be offered access to embryo banking of PGS (next generation gene sequencing/NGS)-selected normal blastocysts, the subsequent selective transfer of which by allowing them to capitalize on whatever residual ovarian reserve and egg quality might still exist and thereby “make hay while the sun still shines” could significantly enhance the opportunity to achieve a viable pregnancy Please visit my new Blog on this very site, www. SherIVF.com, find the “search bar” and type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol • IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS) • The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success • Ovarian Stimulation for IVF using GnRH Antagonists: Comparing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol.(A/ACP) With the “Conventional” Antagonist Approach • Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF. • The “Biological Clock” and how it should Influence the Selection and Design of Ovarian Stimulation Protocols for IVF. • A Rational Basis for selecting Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) protocols in women with Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) • Diagnosing and Treating Infertility due to Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) • Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in Older women and Women who have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): A Rational Basis for Selecting a Stimulation Protocol • Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome? • The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). Coming off the BCP Compromise Response? • Blastocyst Embryo Transfers Should be the Standard of Care in IVF • Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) versus “Fresh” ET: How to Make the Decision • Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET): A Rational Approach to Hormonal Preparation and How new Methodology is Impacting IVF. • Staggered IVF: An Excellent Option When. Advancing Age and Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) Reduces IVF Success Rate • Embryo Banking/Stockpiling: Slows the “Biological Clock” and offers a Selective Alternative to IVF-Egg Donation. • Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGS) in IVF: It Should be Used Selectively and NOT be Routine. • Preimplantation Genetic Sampling (PGS) Using: Next Generation Gene Sequencing (NGS): Method of Choice. • PGS in IVF: Are Some Chromosomally Abnormal Embryos Capable of Resulting in Normal Babies and Being Wrongly Discarded? • PGS and Assessment of Egg/Embryo “competency”: How Method, Timing and Methodology Could Affect Reliability • Treating Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Patients at Sher-IVF in Las Vegas: • Traveling for IVF from Out of State/Country– • A personalized, stepwise approach to IVF • How Many Embryos should be transferred: A Critical Decision in IVF. • The Role of Nutritional Supplements in Preparing for IVF • Premature Luteinization (“the premature LH surge): Why it happens and how it can be prevented. • IVF Egg Donation: A Comprehensive Overview ___________________________________________________ ADDENDUM: PLEASE READ!! INTRODUCING SHER FERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS) Founded in April 2019, Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) offers online (Skype/FaceTime) consultations to patients from > 40 different countries. All consultations are followed by a detailed written report presenting my personal recommendations for treatment of what often constitute complex Reproductive Issues.

reply
Freya

Hello

I am 35, going for fertility treatment using clomid. Do you know if there is an interaction between DHEA and clomid?

My DHEA S results and testosterone was at the bottom of the normal range. Been supplementing with DHEA 75mg . My clinic left it up to me whether to supplement with DHEA. Usually around 7 eggs are retrieved and wanted to improve my numbers and quality in this cycle. I have no issues, just male factor infertility.
Any advice on the potential interaction between clomid amd DHEA would be very much appreciated

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

I am not in favor of using clomiphene in IVF. As for DHEA, please see below:

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), is steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands and ovary. It is involved in producing the male hormones, androstenedione testosterone and also estrogen. DHEA blood levels tend to decline naturally with age.
Under the effect if luteinizing hormone (LH), DHEA is metabolized to testosterone in ovarian connective tissue (theca/stroma). Thereupon the testosterone is transported to the granulosa cells that form the innermost layer of the ovarian follicles where, under the influence of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)-induced desmolase and aromatase enzymatic activity the testosterone is converted to estradiol. As this happens, granulosa cells multiply, follicle fluid volume increases along with estrogen output and egg development is promoted.
It is recognition of the essential/indispensable role that male hormones (mainly testosterone) play in follicle and egg development that prompted the belief that by giving DHEA and boosting ovarian testosterone production might benefit follicle/egg development. This belief was given some credence by an Israeli study that in 2010 reported on improved fertility when a group of infertile women were given the administration of 75mg of oral DHEA for 5 months. However, this study was seriously flawed by the fact that it did not separate out women who had diminished ovarian reserve, older women and those with PCOS, all of whom have increased LH-induced production of testosterone. In fact, we recently completed a study (currently being processed for publication) where we conclusively showed that when follicular fluid testosterone levels exceeded a certain threshold, egg quality was seriously prejudiced as evidenced by a marked increase in the incidence of egg chromosomal defects (aneuploidy).
Consider the following: Ovarian testosterone is needed for follicular development. However, the amount required is small. Too much ovarian testosterone spills over into the follicular fluid and has a deleterious effect on egg/follicle development. Some women (women with diminished ovarian reserve –DOR, older women and those with polycystic ovarian syndrome-PCOS) who tend to have increased LH biological activity, already over-produce testosterone. To such women, the administration of DHEA to such women, by “adding fuel to the fire” can be decidedly prejudicial, in my opinion. Young women with normal ovarian reserve do not over produce LH-induced ovarian testosterone, and are thus probably not at significant risk from DHEA supplementation. It is noteworthy that to date, none of the studies that suggest a benefit from DHEA therapy have differentiated between young healthy normal women with normal ovarian reserve on the one hand and older women, those with DOR and women with PCOS on the other hand.

In Some countries DHEA treatment requires a medical prescription and medical supervision. Not so in the U.S.A where it can be bought over the counter. Since DHEA is involved in sex hormone production, including testosterone and estrogen, individuals with malignant conditions that may be hormone dependent (certain types of breast cancer or testicular cancer) should not receive DHEA supplementation. Also, if overdosed with DHEA some “sensitive women” might so increase their blood concentrations of testosterone that they develop increased aggressive tendencies or male characteristics such as hirsuites (increased hair growth) and a deepening voice. DHEA can also interact other medications, such as barbiturates, corticosteroids, insulin and with other oral diabetic medications.
BUT the strongest argument against the use of routine DHEA supplementation is the potential risk of compromising egg quality in certain categories of women and since there is presently no convincing evidence of any benefit, why take the risk in using it on anyone.
Finally, for those who in spite of the above, still feel compelled to take DHEA, the best advice I can give is to consult their health care providers before starting the process.

Addendum: One potential advantage of DHEA therapy if used appropriately came from a study conducted by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MI and reported in the November 2004 issue of the “Journal of the American Medical Association” which showed that judicious (selective) administration of 50mg DHEA daily for 6 months resulted in a significant reduction of abdominal fat and blood insulin in elderly women.

Selecting the ideal protocol for IVF-ovarian stimulation: an opinion:

The importance of the IVF stimulation protocol on egg/embryo quality cannot be overstated. This factor seems often to be overlooked or discounted by t IVF practitioners who use a “one-size-fits-all” approach to ovarian stimulation. My experience is that the use of individualized/customized COS protocols can greatly improve IVF outcome. While no one can influence underlying genetics or turn back the clock on a woman’s age, any competent IVF specialist should be able to tailor the protocol for COS to meet the individual needs of the patient.
Gonadotropins (LH and FSH), whether produced by the pituitary gland or administered by way of fertility drugs, have different “targeted” sites of action in the ovary. FSH targets cells that line the inner wall of the follicle (granulosa cells) and also form the cumulus cells that bind the egg to the inner surface of the follicle. Granulosa cells are responsible for estrogen production.
LH, on the other hand, targets the ovarian connective tissue (stroma/theca) that surrounds ovarian follicles resulting in the production of male hormones such as testosterone (predominantly), androstenedione and DHEA. These androgens are then transported to the granulosa cells of the adjacent follicles in a “bucket brigade fashion”. There FSH converts testosterone to estradiol, causing granulosa cells to multiply (proliferate) and produce estradiol, follicles to grows and eggs to develop (ovogenesis) It follows that ovarian androgens (mainly testosterone) is absolutely indispensable to follicle/ egg growth and development.
However, the emphasis is on a “normal” amount of testosterone. Over-exposure of the follicle to testosterone can in my opinion, compromise egg development and lead to an increased likelihood of chromosomal irregularities (aneuploid) following LH/hCG-induced egg maturational division (meiosis) and compromise embryo “competency/quality.
Ovarian androgens can also reach the uterine lining where they sometimes will compromise estrogen receptor -induced endometrial growth and development.
A significant percentage of older women and those who have diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) have increased LH activity is increased. Such women either over-produce LH and/or the LH produced is far more biologically active. Chronically increased LH activity leads to overgrowth of ovarian connective tissue (stroma/theca). This condition, which is often referred to as Stromal Hyperplasia or hyperthecosis can result in excessive ovarian androgen/testosterone production and poorer egg-embryo quality/competency, Similarly, women with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), also characteristically have Stromal hyperplasia/hyperthecosis due to chronically increased LH activity. Thus they too often manifest with increased ovarian androgen production. It is therefore not surprising that “poor egg/embryo quality” is often also a feature of PCOS.
In my opinion, the over-administration of LH-containing menotropins such as Menopur, [which is comprised of roughly equal amount of FSH and hCG ,which acts similar to LH)], to older women, women with DOR and those who have PCOS can also lead to reduced egg/embryo competency . Similarly, drugs such as clomiphene or Letrozole that cause the pituitary gland to release excessive amounts of LH, are also potentially harmful to egg development and in my opinion, are best omitted from IVF COS protocols. This is especially the case when it comes to older women and those with DOR, who in my opinion should preferably be stimulated using FSH-dominant products such as Follistim, Puregon, Fostimon and Gonal-F.
Gonadotropin releasing hormone agonists (GnRHa): GnRHa such as Lupron, Buserelin, Superfact, Gonopeptyl etc. are often used to launch ovarian stimulation cycles. They act by causing an initial outpouring followed by a depletion of pituitary gonadotropins. This results in LH levels falling to low concentrations, within 4-7 days, thereby establishing a relatively “LH-free environment”. When GnRHa are administered for about 7 days prior to initiating gonadotropin stimulation (“long” pituitary down-regulation”), the LH depletion that will exist when COS is initiated, will usually be protective of subsequent egg development. In contrast, when the GnRHa administration commences along with the initiation of gonadotropin therapy, there will be a resultant immediate surge in the release of pituitary LH with the potential to increase ovarian testosterone to egg-compromising levels , from the outset of COS. This, in my opinion could be particularly harmful when undertaken in older women and those who have DOR.
GnRH-antagonists such as Ganirelix, Cetrotide and Orgalutron, on the other hand, act very rapidly (within hours) to block pituitary LH release. The purpose in using GnRH antagonists is to prevent the release of LH during COS. In contrast, the LH-lowering effect of GnRH agonists develops over a number of days.
GnRH antagonists are traditionally given, starting after 5th -7th day of gonadotropin stimulation. However, when this is done in older women and those (regardless of age) who have DOR, LH-suppression might be reached too late to prevent the deleterious effect of excessive ovarian androgen production on egg development in the early stage of ovarian stimulation. This is why, it is my preference to administer GnRH-antagonists, starting at the initiation of gonadotropin administration.
My preferred Protocols for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS):
1. “Long” GnRHa (Lupron/Buserelin/Superfact/Gonopeptyl) Pituitary Down-regulation Protocol: The most commonly prescribed protocol for GnRHa/gonadotropin administration is the so-called “long protocol”. Here, GnRHa is given, starting a week or so prior to menstruation. This results in an initial rise in FSH and LH , which is rapidly followed by a precipitous fall to near zero. It is followed by a withdrawal bleed (menstruation), whereupon gonadotropin treatment should commence, while daily Lupron injections continue, to ensure a “low LH” environment. A modification to the “long protocol” which I prefer prescribing for older women and in cases of DOR, is the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol (A/ACP) where, upon the onset of a GnRHa-induced bleed, the agonist is supplanted by an antagonist (Ganirelix/Cetrotide/Orgalutron) and this is continued until the hCG trigger. In many such cases I often supplement with human growth hormone (HGH) in such cases in an attempt to enhance egg mitochondrial activity and so enhance egg development. This approach is often augmented with preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) of all embryos that reach the expanded blastocyst stage of development by day 5-6 post-fertilization. I also commonly recommend blastocyst banking to many such patients.
2.
3. Short (“Flare”) GnRHa Protocol: Another GnRHa usage for COS is the so called “(micro) flare protocol”. This involves initiating gonadotropin therapy commensurate with initiation of gonadotropin administration. The supposed objective is to deliberately allow Lupron to elicit an initial surge (“flare”) in pituitary FSH release in order to augment FSH administration by increased FSH production. Unfortunately, this “spring board effect” constitutes “a double-edged sword”. While it indeed increases the release of FSH, it at the same time causes a surge in LH release. The latter can evoke excessive ovarian stromal/thecal androgen production which could potentially compromise egg quality, especially when it comes to older women and women with DOR. I am of the opinion that by evoking an exaggerated ovarian androgen response, such “(micro) flare protocols” can harm egg/embryo quality and reduce IVF success rates, especially when it comes to COS in older women, and in women with diminished ovarian reserve. Accordingly, I do not prescribe such protocols to my IVF patients.
4. Estrogen Priming – This is the approach I sometimes prescribe for my patients who have virtually depleted ovarian reserve , as determined by very low blood anti-Mullerian hormone AMH levels (<0.2ng/ml or 2 pmol/L) and are thus likely to be very “poor responders”. It involves a modified A/ACP. We start with estrogen skin patches applied every 2nd day (or with the BCP) for 10 days or longer, overlap it for 3 days with a GnRHa whereupon the estrogen priming is stopped. Th GnRHa is continued until the onset of menstruation (usually 5-7 days later) to cause pituitary LH, down-regulation. Upon menstruation and confirmation by ultrasound and measurement of blood estradiol levels that adequate ovarian suppression has been achieved, The patient is given twice-weekly injections of estradiol valerate (Delestrogen) for a period of 7-8 days whereupon COS is initiated using a relatively high dosage FSH-(Follistim, Fostimon, Puregon or Gonal F), which is continued along with daily administration of GnRH antagonist until the “hCG “trigger.” This approach is often augmented with HGH administration throughout the process of COS and by preimplantation genetic screening (PGS) of all embryos that reach the expanded blastocyst stage of development by day 5-6 post-fertilization. I also commonly recommend blastocyst banking to many such patients.
Estrogen Priming has succeeded in significantly enhancing ovarian response to gonadotropins in many of otherwise very poor responders.
Triggering egg Maturation prior to egg Retrieval: hCG versus GnRHa
With ovulation induction using fertility drugs, the administration of 10,000U hCGu (Pregnyl; Profasi, Novarel) or 500mcg hCGr (Ovidrel/Ovitrel) “trigger”) sends the eggs (into maturational division (meiosis). This process is designed to halve the chromosome number, resulting in mature eggs (M2) that will have 23 chromosomes rather that the 46 chromosomes they had prior to the “trigger”. Such a chromosomally numerically normal (euploid), mature (MII) eggs, upon being fertilized will (hopefully) propagate euploid embryos that have 46 chromosomes and will be “: competent” to propagate viable pregnancies. In my opinion, the key is to always “trigger” with no less than 10,000U of hCGu or 500mcg hCGr (Ovidrel/Ovitrel). Any lesser dosage often will reduce the efficiency of meiosis and increase the risk of the eggs being aneuploid. I personally do not use the agonist (Lupron) “trigger”, unless it is combined with (low dosage) hCG. The supposed reason for using the agonist, (Lupron) “trigger” is that by inducing meiosis through compelling a surge in the release of LH by the pituitary gland, the risk it reduces the risk of OHSS. This may be true, but it comes at the expense of egg quality because the extent of the induced LH surge varies and if too little LH is released, meiosis can be compromised, thereby increasing the likelihood of aneuploid and immature (MI) eggs. And there are other better approaches to preventing OHSS (e.g. “prolonged coasting”), in my opinion.
Use of the Birth Control Pill (BCP) to launch IVF-COS.
In natural (unstimulated) as well as in cycles stimulated with fertility drugs, the ability of follicles to properly respond to FSH stimulation is dependent on their having developed FSH-responsive receptors. Pre-antral follicles (PAF) do not have such primed FSH receptors and thus cannot respond properly to FSH stimulation with gonadotropins. The acquisition of FSH receptor responsivity requires that the pre-antral follicles be exposed to FSH, for a number of days (5-7) during which time they attain “FSH-responsivity” and are now known as antral follicles (AF). These AF’s are now able to respond properly to stimulation with administered FSH-gonadotropins. In regular menstrual cycles, the rising FSH output from the pituitary gland insures that PAFs convert tor AF’s. The BCP (as well as prolonged administration of estrogen/progesterone) suppresses FSH. This suppression needs to be countered by artificially causing blood FSH levels to rise in order to cause PAF to AF conversion prior to COS commencing, otherwise pre-antral-to –antral follicle conversion will not take place in an orderly fashion, the duration of ovarian stimulation will be prolonged and both follicle and egg development may be compromised. GnRH agonists cause an immediate surge in release of FSH by the pituitary gland thus causing conversion from PAF to SAF. This is why women who take a BCP to launch a cycle of COS need to have an overlap of the BCP with an agonist. By overlapping the BCP with an agonist for a few days prior to menstruation the early recruited follicles are able to complete their developmental drive to the AF stage and as such, be ready to respond appropriately to optimal ovarian stimulation. Using this approach, the timing of the initiation of the IVF treatment cycle can readily and safely be regulated and controlled by varying the length of time that the woman is on the BCP.
Since optimizing follicular response to COS requires that prior to stimulation with gonadotropins, FSH-induced conversion from PAF to AF’s first be completed and the BCP suppresses FSH, it follows when it comes to women launching COS coming off a BCP something needs to be done to cause a rise in FSH for 5-7 days prior to menstruation heralding the cycle of CO S. This is where overlapping the BCP with a GnRHa comes in. The agonist causes FSH to be released by the pituitary gland and if overlapped with the BCP for several days and this will (within 2-5 days) facilitate PAF to AF conversion…. in time to start COS with the onset of menstruation. Initiating ovarian stimulation in women taking a BCP, without doing this is suboptimal.
I strongly recommend that you visit www.SherIVF.com. Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.
• The IVF Journey: The importance of “Planning the Trip” Before Taking the Ride”
• Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
• The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
• Use of GnRH Antagonists (Ganirelix/Cetrotide/Orgalutron) in IVF-Ovarian Stimulation Protocols.
• Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
• The “Biological Clock” and how it should Influence the Selection and Design of Ovarian Stimulation Protocols for IVF.
• A Rational Basis for selecting Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) protocols in women with Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR)
• Diagnosing and Treating Infertility due to Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR)
• Ovarian Stimulation in Women Who have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): Introducing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion protocol
• Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in Older women and Women who have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): A Rational Basis for Selecting a Stimulation Protocol
• Optimizing Response to Ovarian Stimulation in Women with Compromised Ovarian Response to Ovarian Stimulation: A Personal Approach.
• Egg Maturation in IVF: How Egg “Immaturity”, “Post-maturity” and “Dysmaturity” Influence IVF Outcome:
• Commonly Asked Question in IVF: “Why Did so Few of my Eggs Fertilize and, so Many Fail to Reach Blastocyst?”
• Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome?
• The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). Coming off the BCP Compromise Response?
• Staggered IVF
• Staggered IVF with PGS- Selection of “Competent” Embryos Greatly Enhances the Utility & Efficiency of IVF.
• Staggered IVF: An Excellent Option When. Advancing Age and Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) Reduces IVF Success Rate
• Embryo Banking/Stockpiling: Slows the “Biological Clock” and offers a Selective Alternative to IVF-Egg Donation
• Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGS) in IVF: It should be Used Selectively and NOT be Routine.
• IVF: Selecting the Best Quality Embryos to Transfer
• Preimplantation Genetic Sampling (PGS) Using: Next Generation Gene Sequencing (NGS): Method of Choice.
• PGS in IVF: Are Some Chromosomally abnormal Embryos Capable of Resulting in Normal Babies and Being Wrongly Discarded?
• PGS and Assessment of Egg/Embryo “competency”: How Method, Timing and Methodology Could Affect Reliability
• IVF outcome: How Does Advancing Age and Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) Affect Egg/Embryo “Competency” and How Should the Problem be addressed.

______________________________________________________
ADDENDUM: PLEASE READ!!
INTRODUCING SHER FERTILITY SOLUTIONS (SFS)
Founded in April 2019, Sher Fertility Solutions (SFS) offers online (Skype/FaceTime) consultations to patients from > 40 different countries. All consultations are followed by a detailed written report presenting my personal recommendations for treatment of what often constitute complex Reproductive Issues.

If you wish to schedule an online consultation with me, please contact my assistant (Patti Converse) by phone (800-780-7437/702-533-2691), email (concierge@SherIVF.com) or, enroll online on then home-page of my website (www.SherIVF.com).

PLEASE SPREAD THE WORD ABOUT SFS!

Geoff Sher

reply
Ester

Hello Dr. Sher,

In my own personal experience, I could not agree with you more about the damage DHEA can do to LOR and I wish more doctors out there would understand this. It would save us a lot of pain and missed opportunities. Could you please share the link here with the study you mentioned above that was for publication?

Thank you,

Ester

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Thank you! I will try to get to doing that….no promises though!

Geoff Sher

reply
LORI

I am 31 years old and have no had my period going on 3 months. I have an appointment next month in May on the 18th. I have always been regular and at 28 years old was able to get pregnant no problem, I did choose to have an abortion. But I just wanted to let you know that because I’ve always been healthy and regular down there. I think I am having a chemical imbalance that is causing me to have low hormone levels should I start taking DHEA supplements in the meantime until my appointment? Any supplement recommendations, I’ve been making sure to eat healthy balanced diet and have been taking iron supplements, advanced probiotic supplements, folic acid supplements. Again as well as greens lean and fatty protein. Dairy foods. All types of beans too. So any advice, I hope this is not permanent because I am ready now to start a family and than this happened. No period going on 3 months. Also its been hard to get an appt because of the Corona so feeling very fortunate to be seen next month. Lots of reading and looks like I will have to be hormone replacement therapy. Anxiety and stress is now through the roof. Because I’ve always been regular, healthy and able to get pregnant the lost of this be lost forever is life changing, heartbreaking and would be total devastation.

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Hi Lori,

Sorry that you are going through all this. Clearly, since you are not pregnant, you 3 months of amenorrhea points to wards an absent ovulation. This will need to be evaluated by your RE, beginning with your visit. If all else is OK, you probably will be put on ovulation induction agents….but before doing this, a thorough evaluation would be needed.

Good luck and G-d bless!

Geoff sher

reply
Autumn Temple

Hi! I just saw your post and wanted to reply with my own personal experience. I am 39 years old, with unexplained infertility. I was told to take 50 mg a day of DHEA by my previous RE in January 2020 (he died last month of COVID and I now have a new RE 🙁 I have never missed a period since I first got my period 25 years ago, and as soon as I started taking DHEA my ovulation and periods stopped. In early April, within 8 days of stopping DHEA, my period started — and since I stoped taking it, my ovulation and periods went back to normal (I ovulated 14 days after period, and just got my period again now 14 days after ovulation). There was no other change to my life, diet, medication etc EXCEPT for the daily DHEA. After speaking my new RE and my GP, I am 100% convinced that the DHEA stopped me from ovulating and thus stopped my periods. After talking to my friends after this happened, one of my friends told me that she had an even worse reaction to taking DHEA; it not only stopped her entire cycle, but caused her to have terrible acne, created aggressive feelings and terrible angry mood swings, and she started growing facial hair! also, for the entire year she was on DHEA the doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong with her cycle and she was put on tons of different medications to t try and induce ovulation / induce period, and they didn’t work so it was thought that Clomid and other medications didn’t work on her. However, when she finally went off the DHEA on the advice of a new RE her cycles went back to normal and it turned out that Clomid and other fertility meds did, in fact, work for her. I say don’t take it. But If you decide to take it, I implore that you first have you androgen/testosterone levels tested. If they are already normal or high, it is very likely that DHEA won’t have any benefit and will only make matters worse. Good luck!

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Thank you for your input!

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), is steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands and ovary. It is involved in producing the male hormones, androstenedione testosterone and also estrogen. DHEA blood levels tend to decline naturally with age.
Under the effect if luteinizing hormone (LH), DHEA is metabolized to testosterone in ovarian connective tissue (theca/stroma). Thereupon the testosterone is transported to the granulosa cells that form the innermost layer of the ovarian follicles where, under the influence of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)-induced desmolase and aromatase enzymatic activity the testosterone is converted to estradiol. As this happens, granulosa cells multiply, follicle fluid volume increases along with estrogen output and egg development is promoted.
It is recognition of the essential/indispensable role that male hormones (mainly testosterone) play in follicle and egg development that prompted the belief that by giving DHEA and boosting ovarian testosterone production might benefit follicle/egg development. This belief was given some credence by an Israeli study that in 2010 reported on improved fertility when a group of infertile women were given the administration of 75mg of oral DHEA for 5 months. However, this study was seriously flawed by the fact that it did not separate out women who had diminished ovarian reserve, older women and those with PCOS, all of whom have increased LH-induced production of testosterone. In fact, we recently completed a study (currently being processed for publication) where we conclusively showed that when follicular fluid testosterone levels exceeded a certain threshold, egg quality was seriously prejudiced as evidenced by a marked increase in the incidence of egg chromosomal defects (aneuploidy).
Consider the following: Ovarian testosterone is needed for follicular development. However, the amount required is small. Too much ovarian testosterone spills over into the follicular fluid and has a deleterious effect on egg/follicle development. Some women (women with diminished ovarian reserve –DOR, older women and those with polycystic ovarian syndrome-PCOS) who tend to have increased LH biological activity, already over-produce testosterone. To such women, the administration of DHEA to such women, by “adding fuel to the fire” can be decidedly prejudicial, in my opinion. Young women with normal ovarian reserve do not over produce LH-induced ovarian testosterone, and are thus probably not at significant risk from DHEA supplementation. It is noteworthy that to date, none of the studies that suggest a benefit from DHEA therapy have differentiated between young healthy normal women with normal ovarian reserve on the one hand and older women, those with DOR and women with PCOS on the other hand.

In Some countries DHEA treatment requires a medical prescription and medical supervision. Not so in the U.S.A where it can be bought over the counter. Since DHEA is involved in sex hormone production, including testosterone and estrogen, individuals with malignant conditions that may be hormone dependent (certain types of breast cancer or testicular cancer) should not receive DHEA supplementation. Also, if overdosed with DHEA some “sensitive women” might so increase their blood concentrations of testosterone that they develop increased aggressive tendencies or male characteristics such as hirsuites (increased hair growth) and a deepening voice. DHEA can also interact other medications, such as barbiturates, corticosteroids, insulin and with other oral diabetic medications.
BUT the strongest argument against the use of routine DHEA supplementation is the potential risk of compromising egg quality in certain categories of women and since there is presently no convincing evidence of any benefit, why take the risk in using it on anyone.
Finally, for those who in spite of the above, still feel compelled to take DHEA, the best advice I can give is to consult their health care providers before starting the process.

Addendum: One potential advantage of DHEA therapy if used appropriately came from a study conducted by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MI and reported in the November 2004 issue of the “Journal of the American Medical Association” which showed that judicious (selective) administration of 50mg DHEA daily for 6 months resulted in a significant reduction of abdominal fat and blood insulin in elderly women.

.
Geoff Sher

reply
Britt

Hi I am 41 years old and had my first daughter at 38. My FSH is 7, AMH is 2.25. I have been on micronized DHEA, and I have no effects from it at all except my periods are lighter and shorter. I have always had a regular cycle (31 days, ovulating day 17ish) and that hasn’t changed. I’m wondering if DHEA is causing the spotting and light periods, and if so how will it effect my changes of getting pregnant. I am on Femera, and have between 3-5 eggs, but it makes me ovulate on day 15, but my lining is always around a 7. I feel like DHEA is interrupting my lining development. Any thoughts?

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), is steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands and ovary. It is involved in producing the male hormones, androstenedione testosterone and also estrogen. DHEA blood levels tend to decline naturally with age.
Under the effect if luteinizing hormone (LH), DHEA is metabolized to testosterone in ovarian connective tissue (theca/stroma). Thereupon the testosterone is transported to the granulosa cells that form the innermost layer of the ovarian follicles where, under the influence of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)-induced desmolase and aromatase enzymatic activity the testosterone is converted to estradiol. As this happens, granulosa cells multiply, follicle fluid volume increases along with estrogen output and egg development is promoted.
It is recognition of the essential/indispensable role that male hormones (mainly testosterone) play in follicle and egg development that prompted the belief that by giving DHEA and boosting ovarian testosterone production might benefit follicle/egg development. This belief was given some credence by an Israeli study that in 2010 reported on improved fertility when a group of infertile women were given the administration of 75mg of oral DHEA for 5 months. However, this study was seriously flawed by the fact that it did not separate out women who had diminished ovarian reserve, older women and those with PCOS, all of whom have increased LH-induced production of testosterone. In fact, we recently completed a study (currently being processed for publication) where we conclusively showed that when follicular fluid testosterone levels exceeded a certain threshold, egg quality was seriously prejudiced as evidenced by a marked increase in the incidence of egg chromosomal defects (aneuploidy).
Consider the following: Ovarian testosterone is needed for follicular development. However, the amount required is small. Too much ovarian testosterone spills over into the follicular fluid and has a deleterious effect on egg/follicle development. Some women (women with diminished ovarian reserve –DOR, older women and those with polycystic ovarian syndrome-PCOS) who tend to have increased LH biological activity, already over-produce testosterone. To such women, the administration of DHEA to such women, by “adding fuel to the fire” can be decidedly prejudicial, in my opinion. Young women with normal ovarian reserve do not over produce LH-induced ovarian testosterone, and are thus probably not at significant risk from DHEA supplementation. It is noteworthy that to date, none of the studies that suggest a benefit from DHEA therapy have differentiated between young healthy normal women with normal ovarian reserve on the one hand and older women, those with DOR and women with PCOS on the other hand.

In Some countries DHEA treatment requires a medical prescription and medical supervision. Not so in the U.S.A where it can be bought over the counter. Since DHEA is involved in sex hormone production, including testosterone and estrogen, individuals with malignant conditions that may be hormone dependent (certain types of breast cancer or testicular cancer) should not receive DHEA supplementation. Also, if overdosed with DHEA some “sensitive women” might so increase their blood concentrations of testosterone that they develop increased aggressive tendencies or male characteristics such as hirsuites (increased hair growth) and a deepening voice. DHEA can also interact other medications, such as barbiturates, corticosteroids, insulin and with other oral diabetic medications.
BUT the strongest argument against the use of routine DHEA supplementation is the potential risk of compromising egg quality in certain categories of women and since there is presently no convincing evidence of any benefit, why take the risk in using it on anyone.
Finally, for those who in spite of the above, still feel compelled to take DHEA, the best advice I can give is to consult their health care providers before starting the process.

Addendum: One potential advantage of DHEA therapy if used appropriately came from a study conducted by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MI and reported in the November 2004 issue of the “Journal of the American Medical Association” which showed that judicious (selective) administration of 50mg DHEA daily for 6 months resulted in a significant reduction of abdominal fat and blood insulin in elderly women.

Geoff Sher
.

reply
Celia

Hi Dr. Sher,

Does your view on DHEA remain the same? Do you use it at your clinic at all? I have DOR (4-5) and the testoterone level is 0.4nmol/L. Do patients have to be closely monitored while taking DHEA? Are side effects common and relatively short term?

Thanks!

Celia

reply
Dr. Geoffrey Sher

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), is steroid hormone produced by the adrenal glands and ovary. It is involved in producing the male hormones, androstenedione testosterone and also estrogen. DHEA blood levels tend to decline naturally with age.
Under the effect if luteinizing hormone (LH), DHEA is metabolized to testosterone in ovarian connective tissue (theca/stroma). Thereupon the testosterone is transported to the granulosa cells that form the innermost layer of the ovarian follicles where, under the influence of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH)-induced desmolase and aromatase enzymatic activity the testosterone is converted to estradiol. As this happens, granulosa cells multiply, follicle fluid volume increases along with estrogen output and egg development is promoted.
It is recognition of the essential/indispensable role that male hormones (mainly testosterone) play in follicle and egg development that prompted the belief that by giving DHEA and boosting ovarian testosterone production might benefit follicle/egg development. This belief was given some credence by an Israeli study that in 2010 reported on improved fertility when a group of infertile women were given the administration of 75mg of oral DHEA for 5 months. However, this study was seriously flawed by the fact that it did not separate out women who had diminished ovarian reserve, older women and those with PCOS, all of whom have increased LH-induced production of testosterone. In fact, we recently completed a study (currently being processed for publication) where we conclusively showed that when follicular fluid testosterone levels exceeded a certain threshold, egg quality was seriously prejudiced as evidenced by a marked increase in the incidence of egg chromosomal defects (aneuploidy).
Consider the following: Ovarian testosterone is needed for follicular development. However, the amount required is small. Too much ovarian testosterone spills over into the follicular fluid and has a deleterious effect on egg/follicle development. Some women (women with diminished ovarian reserve –DOR, older women and those with polycystic ovarian syndrome-PCOS) who tend to have increased LH biological activity, already over-produce testosterone. To such women, the administration of DHEA to such women, by “adding fuel to the fire” can be decidedly prejudicial, in my opinion. Young women with normal ovarian reserve do not over produce LH-induced ovarian testosterone, and are thus probably not at significant risk from DHEA supplementation. It is noteworthy that to date, none of the studies that suggest a benefit from DHEA therapy have differentiated between young healthy normal women with normal ovarian reserve on the one hand and older women, those with DOR and women with PCOS on the other hand.

In Some countries DHEA treatment requires a medical prescription and medical supervision. Not so in the U.S.A where it can be bought over the counter. Since DHEA is involved in sex hormone production, including testosterone and estrogen, individuals with malignant conditions that may be hormone dependent (certain types of breast cancer or testicular cancer) should not receive DHEA supplementation. Also, if overdosed with DHEA some “sensitive women” might so increase their blood concentrations of testosterone that they develop increased aggressive tendencies or male characteristics such as hirsuites (increased hair growth) and a deepening voice. DHEA can also interact other medications, such as barbiturates, corticosteroids, insulin and with other oral diabetic medications.
BUT the strongest argument against the use of routine DHEA supplementation is the potential risk of compromising egg quality in certain categories of women and since there is presently no convincing evidence of any benefit, why take the risk in using it on anyone.
Finally, for those who in spite of the above, still feel compelled to take DHEA, the best advice I can give is to consult their health care providers before starting the process.

Addendum: One potential advantage of DHEA therapy if used appropriately came from a study conducted by Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, MI and reported in the November 2004 issue of the “Journal of the American Medical Association” which showed that judicious (selective) administration of 50mg DHEA daily for 6 months resulted in a significant reduction of abdominal fat and blood insulin in elderly women.

In my opinion, the protocol used for ovarian stimulation, against the backdrop of age, and ovarian reserve are the drivers of egg quality and egg quality is the most important factor affecting embryo “competency”.
Women who (regardless of age) have DOR have a reduced potential for IVF success. Much of this is due to the fact that such women tend to have increased production of LH biological activity which can result in excessive LH-induced ovarian male hormone (predominantly testosterone) production which in turn can have a deleterious effect on egg/embryo “competency”.

While it is presently not possible by any means, to reverse the effect of DOR, certain ovarian stimulation regimes, by promoting excessive LH production (e.g. short agonist/Lupron- “flare” protocols, clomiphene and Letrozole), can in my opinion, make matters worse. Similarly, the amount/dosage of certain fertility drugs that contain LH/hCG (e.g. Menopur) can have a negative effect on the development of the eggs of older women and those who have DOR and should be limited.I try to avoid using such protocols/regimes (especially) in women with DOR, favoring instead the use of the agonist/antagonist conversion protocol (A/ACP), a modified, long pituitary down-regulation regime, augmented by adding supplementary human growth hormone (HGH). I further recommend that such women be offered access to embryo banking of PGS (next generation gene sequencing/NGS)-selected normal blastocysts, the subsequent selective transfer of which by allowing them to capitalize on whatever residual ovarian reserve and egg quality might still exist and thereby “make hay while the sun still shines” could significantly enhance the opportunity to achieve a viable pregnancy

Please visit my new Blog on this very site, http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com, find the “search bar” and type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.

• Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
• IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS)
• The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
• Ovarian Stimulation for IVF using GnRH Antagonists: Comparing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol.(A/ACP) With the “Conventional” Antagonist Approach
• Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
• The “Biological Clock” and how it should Influence the Selection and Design of Ovarian Stimulation Protocols for IVF.
• A Rational Basis for selecting Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) protocols in women with Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR)
• Diagnosing and Treating Infertility due to Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR)
• Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in Older women and Women who have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): A Rational Basis for Selecting a Stimulation Protocol
• Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome?
• The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). Coming off the BCP Compromise Response?
• Blastocyst Embryo Transfers should be the Standard of Care in IVF
• Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) versus “Fresh” ET: How to Make the Decision
• Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET): A Rational Approach to Hormonal Preparation and How new Methodology is Impacting IVF.
• Staggered IVF: An Excellent Option When. Advancing Age and Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) Reduces IVF Success Rate
• Embryo Banking/Stockpiling: Slows the “Biological Clock” and offers a Selective Alternative to IVF-Egg Donation.
• Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGS) in IVF: It should be Used Selectively and NOT be Routine.
• Preimplantation Genetic Sampling (PGS) Using: Next Generation Gene Sequencing (NGS): Method of Choice.
• PGS in IVF: Are Some Chromosomally Abnormal Embryos Capable of Resulting in Normal Babies and Being Wrongly Discarded?
• PGS and Assessment of Egg/Embryo “competency”: How Method, Timing and Methodology Could Affect Reliability
• Treating Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Patients at Sher-IVF in Las Vegas:
• Traveling for IVF from Out of State/Country–
• A personalized, stepwise approach to IVF
• How Many Embryos should be transferred: A Critical Decision in IVF.
• The Role of Nutritional Supplements in Preparing for IVF
• Premature Luteinization (“the premature LH surge): Why it happens and how it can be prevented.
• IVF Egg Donation: A Comprehensive Overview

ANNOUNCEMENTS:
1. About my Retirement
After > 30 years in the field of Assisted Reproduction (AR), the time has finally come for me to contemplate retiring from full-time clinical medicine. If you are interested in my medical services prior to my retirement, I urge you to contact my concierge, Julie Dahan ASAP to set up a Skype or an in-person consultation with me. You can also contact Julie by phone or via email at 702-533-2691/ Julied@sherivf.com. You can also apply online at http://www.SherIVF.com.

2. The 4th edition of my newest book ,
“In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies” is now available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com or from most bookstores and public libraries.

Geoffrey Sher MD

.

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SWright

Hi Dr. Sher,
I am 36 years old and have undergone my second IVF cycle. The first cycle, I produced 17 eggs, 8 mature, 6 fertilized, 5 day 5 blasts, and 2 genetically normal grade 4aa embryos transferred that resulted in a negative pregnancy test. The second cycle, I only produced 12 eggs, 7 mature, 6 fertilized, and 1 day 5 blast which we decided not to genetically test (graded 5bb). I have not yet transferred this embryo, so I do not have the ultimate outcome. However, the second cycle showed the appearance of eggs that had “oatmeal” like quality according to the embryologist, and day 3 embryos all showed some fragmentation (unlike the first cycle). The only changes between the first and second cycle were an increase of Menopur and the use of DHEA. Do you think DHEA could have negatively impacted my eggs on the second cycle? All of my hormone levels have tested normally in the past, and I do not have any medical conditions that impact my fertility. Thank you in advance for your response!

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Dr. Geoffrey Sher

I could not pin the second response directly on any single factor. However, in my opinion, the DHEA should cease and the protocol used for ovarian stimulation should be carefully reviewed and possibly revised. Additionally , the failure to conceive with 2 PGS normal embryos transferred iin your 1st cycle, raises the specter of a possible implantation dysfunction (perhaps immunologic).

Whenever a patient fails to achieve a viable pregnancy following embryo transfer (ET), the first question asked is why! Was it simply due to, bad luck?, How likely is the failure to recur in future attempts and what can be done differently, to avoid it happening next time?.
It is an indisputable fact that any IVF procedure is at least as likely to fail as it is to succeed. Thus when it comes to outcome, luck is an undeniable factor. Notwithstanding, it is incumbent upon the treating physician to carefully consider and address the causes of IVF failure before proceeding to another attempt:
1. Age: The chance of a woman under 35Y of age having a baby per embryo transfer is about 35-40%. From there it declines progressively to under 5% by the time she reaches her mid-forties. This is largely due to declining chromosomal integrity of the eggs with advancing age…”a wear and tear effect” on eggs that are in the ovaries from birth.
2. Embryo Quality/”competency (capable of propagating a viable pregnancy)”. As stated, the woman’s age plays a big role in determining egg/embryo quality/”competency”. This having been said, aside from age the protocol used for controlled ovarian stimulation (COS) is the next most important factor. It is especially important when it comes to older women, and women with diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) where it becomes essential to be aggressive, and to customize and individualize the ovarian stimulation protocol.
We used to believe that the uterine environment is more beneficial to embryo development than is the incubator/petri dish and that accordingly, the earlier on in development that embryos are transferred to the uterus, the better. To achieve this goal, we used to select embryos for transfer based upon their day two or microscopic appearance (“grade”). But we have since learned that the further an embryo has advanced in its development, the more likely it is to be “competent” and that embryos failing to reach the expanded blastocyst stage within 5-6 days of being fertilized are almost invariably “incompetent” and are unworthy of being transferred. Moreover, the introduction into clinical practice about a decade ago, (by Levent Keskintepe PhD and myself) of Preimplantation Genetic Sampling (PGS), which assesses for the presence of all the embryos chromosomes (complete chromosomal karyotyping), provides another tool by which to select the most “competent” embryos for transfer. This methodology has selective benefit when it comes to older women, women with DOR, cases of unexplained repeated IVF failure and women who experience recurrent pregnancy loss (RPL).
3. The number of the embryos transferred: Most patients believe that the more embryos transferred the greater the chance of success. To some extent this might be true, but if the problem lies with the use of a suboptimal COS protocol, transferring more embryos at a time won’t improve the chance of success. Nor will the transfer of a greater number of embryos solve an underlying embryo implantation dysfunction (anatomical molecular or immunologic).Moreover, the transfer of multiple embryos, should they implant, can and all too often does result in triplets or greater (high order multiples) which increases the incidence of maternal pregnancy-induced complications and of premature delivery with its serious risks to the newborn. It is for this reason that I rarely recommend the transfer of more than 2 embryos at a time and am moving in the direction of advising single embryo transfers …especially when it comes to transferring embryos derived through the fertilization of eggs from young women.
4. Implantation Dysfunction (ID): Implantation dysfunction is a very common (often overlooked) cause of “unexplained” IVF failure. This is especially the case in young ovulating women who have normal ovarian reserve and have fertile partners. Failure to identify, typify, and address such issues is, in my opinion, an unfortunate and relatively common cause of repeated IVF failure in such women. Common sense dictates that if ultrasound guided embryo transfer is performed competently and yet repeated IVF attempts fail to propagate a viable pregnancy, implantation dysfunction must be seriously considered. Yet ID is probably the most overlooked factor. The most common causes of implantation dysfunction are:
a. A“ thin uterine lining”
b. A uterus with surface lesions in the cavity (polyps, fibroids, scar tissue)
c. Immunologic implantation dysfunction (IID)
d. Endocrine/molecular endometrial receptivity issues
Certain causes of infertility are repetitive and thus cannot readily be reversed. Examples include advanced age of the woman; severe male infertility; immunologic infertility associated with alloimmune implantation dysfunction (especially if it is a “complete DQ alpha genetic match between partners plus uterine natural killer cell activation (NKa).
My answer to patients who ask me when is the time to stop undergoing IVF is ….Aside from the weight of the financial burden, the time to stop is when in spite of thorough and comprehensive evaluation, there is no remediable and treatable explanation for repeated failure.

I strongly recommend that you visit http://www.DrGeoffreySherIVF.com. Then go to my Blog and access the “search bar”. Type in the titles of any/all of the articles listed below, one by one. “Click” and you will immediately be taken to those you select. Please also take the time to post any questions or comments with the full expectation that I will (as always) respond promptly.
• Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) for IVF: Selecting the ideal protocol
• IVF: Factors Affecting Egg/Embryo “competency” during Controlled Ovarian Stimulation(COS)
• The Fundamental Requirements For Achieving Optimal IVF Success
• Ovarian Stimulation for IVF using GnRH Antagonists: Comparing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion Protocol.(A/ACP) With the“Conventional” Antagonist Aproach
• Ovarian Stimulation in Women Who have Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR): Introducing the Agonist/Antagonist Conversion protocol
• Anti Mullerian Hormone (AMH) Measurement to Assess Ovarian Reserve and Design the Optimal Protocol for Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS) in IVF.
• Human Growth Hormone Administration in IVF: Does it Enhances Egg/Embryo Quality and Outcome?
• The BCP: Does Launching a Cycle of Controlled Ovarian Stimulation (COS). Coming off the BCP Compromise Response?
• Blastocyst Embryo Transfers Should be the Standard of Care in IVF
• Preimplantation Genetic Testing (PGS) in IVF: It Should be Used Selectively and NOT be Routine.
• Preimplantation Genetic Sampling (PGS) Using: Next Generation Gene Sequencing (NGS): Method of Choice.
• IVF Failure and Implantation Dysfunction:
• The Role of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 1-Background
• Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 2- Making a Diagnosis
• Immunologic Dysfunction (IID) & Infertility (IID):PART 3-Treatment
• Thyroid autoantibodies and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
• Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction: Importance of Meticulous Evaluation and Strategic Management:(Case Report
• Intralipid and IVIG therapy: Understanding the Basis for its use in the Treatment of Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction (IID)
• Intralipid (IL) Administration in IVF: It’s Composition; How it Works; Administration; Side-effects; Reactions and Precautions
• Natural Killer Cell Activation (NKa) and Immunologic Implantation Dysfunction in IVF: The Controversy!
• Endometrial Thickness, Uterine Pathology and Immunologic Factors
• Vaginally Administered Viagra is Often a Highly Effective Treatment to Help Thicken a Thin Uterine Lining
• Treating Out-of-State and Out-of-Country Patients at Sher-IVF in Las Vegas:
• A personalized, stepwise approach to IVF
• How Many Embryos should be transferred: A Critical Decision in IVF.
• The Role of Nutritional Supplements in Preparing for IVF

Please call or email Julie Dahan, my patient concierge. She will guide you on how to set up an in-person or Skype consultation with me. You can reach Julie at on her cell phone or via email at any time:
Julie Dahan
• Email: Julied@sherivf.com
• Phone: 702-533-2691
 800-780-7437

Geoff Sher

I also suggest that you access the 4th edition of my book ,”In Vitro Fertilization, the ART of Making Babies”. It is available as a down-load through http://www.Amazon.com or from most bookstores and public libraries.

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DReynolds

Forgot to mention …..it has been eight weeks now since the D&C and still no period. Can the DHEA be affecting my cycle? What is the best way to help my body get back to a normal cycle? Thank you.

reply
DReynolds

I am 45 and recently conceived naturally, however, did miscarry at 8 weeks. We do hope to become pregnant again naturally. And in our hopefulness have researched and read and as a result I have been taking additional supplements ….including DHEA. I have read your opinion, and of course am now concerned that i may be doing more harm than good. We had met with a fertility specialist locally, and that was the day we learned I was pregnant, so my follow up has only been with the OB who informed us of low heartbeat followed by miscarriage (and required D&C unfortunately). I do feel a bit like a woman on her own as it seems unclear which doctor is my best source for rebalancing my hormones and improving my chances of conceiving at this age naturally – your input welcome. Also, now that I am fearing the DHEA, do you recommend I stop? And if I do, and if there has been any damage or detriment to me/my eggs…..how long will it be to get out of my system? Can the damage be reversed? I appreciate your input very much.

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Dr. Geoffrey Sher

I really want to be honest. I think the DHEA (while less than ideal for you), alone is not the reason for your problem. It is age and at 45Y, it is highly improbable that you will conceive on your own or even with own eggs using IVF, for that matter, and go on to have a baby.

Alas, you need IVF with egg donation!

Sorry!

Geoff Sher.

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