Prof. Adrian Shulman of Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine and the Meir Medical Center has found a statistical connection between the over-the-counter vitamin supplement DHEA, used to counter the effects of aging, and successful pregnancy rates in women undergoing treatment for infertility.
In the first controlled study on the effects of the supplement, Shulman found that women being treated for infertility who also received supplements of DHEA were three times more likely to conceive than women being treated without the additional drug.
After hearing anecdotal evidence from his patients and the medical community on the benefits of combining fertility treatments with DHEA, a supplement marketed as an anti-aging drug around the world, Shulman decided to put this old wives' tale to the statistical test.
He and his fellow researchers conducted a study in which a control group of women received treatment for poor ovulation, and another group received the same treatment with the addition of the DHEA supplement.
The latter group took 75mg of the supplement daily for 40 days before starting fertility treatments, and continued for up to five months.
Not only were women who combined infertility treatment with DHEA more likely to conceive, the researchers discovered, they were also more likely to experience a healthy pregnancy and delivery.
"In the DHEA group, there was a 23pct live birth rate as opposed to a 4% rate in the control group. More than that, of the pregnancies in the DHEA group, all but one ended in healthy deliveries," explained Shulman.
He believes that women who are finding little success with their current fertility treatments could look to DHEA to improve their chances of conceiving.
"We recommend that women try this DHEA treatment, in conjunction with fertility treatments, for four to five months," said Shulman.
It could also be used as a regular "vitamin" for women who have already conceived and are pregnant, but more research would need to be done on the compound to determine its effects, he added.
The results were recently published in AYALA, the journal of the Israeli Fertility Association.