Infertility is becoming widespread these days but in the early 1900's, families with five children or more were commonplace. A century later, we now have fertility clinics available to women who want to just have one child. Infertility treatment is expensive and painful for couples who often become desperate after years of failed treatments. One common overlooked reason is low DHEA levels. DHEA is short for DeHydroEpiAndrosterone.
This is the "fountain of youth" hormone and it's a natural adrenal hormone which peaks at age 25, then steadily declines as we age. DHEA can be converted into testosterone and estrogen. Less DHEA means less of these sex hormones. Blood or saliva tests are available to gauge DHEA levels which must be in balance with other adrenal hormones, especially cortisol. High cortisol will cause you to hold on to belly fat.
Cortisol goes up in response to stress. Remember, these two are supposed to be in balance, like a see-saw. So you can see where I'm going with this. Cortisol climbs up and up in many women given the fast paced 21st century non-stop information overload, lack of sleep, caffeine, work-related stress, financial obligations or relationship stress. When it comes time to have a baby, cortisol could be high while DHEA levels may be seriously tanked! Some signs and symptoms include bad PMS (premenstrual syndrome), fatigue, brain fog, mood swings or high cholesterol.
But wait, the fertility doctor told you it was a low count of eggs! Yes that could be true, it's technically termed "Low Functional Ovarian Reserve" or LFOR, which could occur from aging ovaries. At puberty, you may have had 250,000 to 500,000 eggs, but by age 37 perhaps there are 25,000 eggs, and by the time you hit menopause you may have less than 1,000 eggs. If you have LFOR, a specialist in this field will often complement in-vitro fertilization (IVF) with DHEA supplements and/or testosterone medications. According to a recent study published in the Journal of Ovarian Research research supports it. Female participants received 75 mg of DHEA for three consecutive menstrual cycles prior to IVF experiences. Those who received DHEA had more embryos leading to more successful pregnancies. But don't supplement with DHEA by yourself, dosing is dependent on many factors, especially genes which I study every day.
Your response and metabolism of DHEA is dependent on your personal genetic variants meaning supplementation can be good or bad depending on your genes. Cellular and animal studies show that SNPs in any of the following genes affect your metabolism of DHEA: Aromatase, steroid 5?-reductase, sex-hormone binding globulin (SHBG), fragile X mental retardation protein and breast cancer type 1 (BRCA1 gene) can affect levels of androgens in women. Short of screening yourself for all potential genetic variants, I think it's better for you to just do hormonal assessments to see if you have low DHEA or low testosterone.