DHEA is 5-Dehydroepiandrosterone, a hormone made by your adrenal glands. It has been found to be effective for a number of uses, but it comes with a number of side effects that occur due to altered hormone levels. Researchers have found that one side effect in particular may be a positive effect on infertility.
Your body makes DHEA naturally as the basic ingredient of the sex hormones estrogen and androgen. Your natural DHEA levels peak around age 30, then steadily decline as you age. This decline coincides with many age-related conditions such as osteoporosis, sexual dysfunction, metabolic syndrome and muscular degeneration, leading researchers to believe that the hormone may play a role in these conditions. Younger people with certain condition like schizophrenia, kidney disease, depression and chronic fatigue syndrome have also been found to have low natural levels of DHEA, leading researchers to believe that boosting those levels back up to normal may improve those conditions.
DHEA is most commonly used to help lose fat and build muscle by altering the natural hormone levels and possibly altering metabolism. This use is so widespread and anecdotally effective that DHEA is banned by the National Collegiate Athletic Association. The problem arises when the user relies on DHEA for too long -- the longer you use the supplement, the more susceptible you are to the side effects. Women may experience facial hair growth, voice deepening and belly-fat gain, and men may begin to grow breast tissue. This is why it's very important to coordinate your DHEA use with your doctor, so he can determine the dosage amount and cycle length that is right for you.
DHEA is not only a hormone, but the precursor to the sex hormones, so it is no surprise that it may alter your menstrual cycle. Your sex hormones are responsible for everything that makes you female, and a process as major and complicated as preparing the womb to carry a child is heavily dependent on these chemicals. When the balance of sex hormone levels is altered, it may affect the frequency and regularity of your periods, and could make cramps and flow worse.
In an unusual turn of events, it was the patients who informed the doctors that the use of DHEA carried the positive side effect of making infertility treatments successful. Researchers used this anecdotal evidence to launch studies into the effectiveness and viability of the practice, and were pleasantly surprised -- a study conducted by Professor Adrian Schulman of Tel Aviv University found that women who took DHEA during infertility treatment were more likely to become pregnant than those on infertility treatment only. The difference was huge -- 23 percent of the women who took DHEA produced live births as opposed to 6 percent of the women who did not. Of course, there is not enough research to make DHEA supplementation a common adjunct to infertility treatment yet, but studies are ongoing. If you are trying to conceive, it is worth consulting your doctor.