First things first: You should talk to your doctor before taking any supplement. Even the least harmful among them can carry some risks -- including unpleasant or dangerous side effects and possible interactions with medications and other supplements.
DHEA is believed to be relatively safe when taken in moderate doses for short periods of time. Some side effects, such as acne, hair loss, upset stomach, high blood pressure, changes in menstruation, facial hair growth and deepening voice can occur in women who take the supplement. Higher doses and/or a longer course of DHEA can increase the risk of these side effects.
Because DHEA is a parent hormone of estrogen (as well as androgen), it can be harmful to a woman who has breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis or uterine fibroids [source: WebMD]. High levels of DHEA can also negatively impact other health conditions, ranging from diabetes to depression.
Medications that are known to interact with the supplement include the breast cancer drugs anastrozole, exemestane, fulvestrant, letrozole and tamoxifin, as well as triazolam (a medicine used to treat severe insomnia), corticosteroids, insulin and certain drugs, like fexofenadine, that are broken down by the liver [source: WebMD].
Finally, if you take DHEA and conceive while on it, it's a good idea to stop taking the supplement when you find out you're pregnant as it may be harmful to your baby. You should also avoid DHEA while breastfeeding.
As you can see, DHEA isn't completely harmless. However, if your health history makes you a good candidate for the supplement, there's no reason not to try it while under a doctor's supervision.
If you'd like to know more about infertility, head to the next page for lots more information.
- Center for Human Reproduction. "DHEA: New Treatment for Women with Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR)." Dec. 28, 2011. (June 5, 2012) http://www.centerforhumanreprod.com/dhea.html
- Fortuna, Roger and Suzan Clarke. "For Women Who Want Kids, 'the Sooner the Better': 90 percent of eggs gone by age 30." ABC News. Jan. 29, 2010. (June 5, 2012) http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/OnCall/women-fertility-falls-lose-90-percent-eggs-30/story?id=9693015#.T87X4o5Z3FE
- Rice, Rebecca. "DHEA Supplementation May Boost Fertility and IVF Success." CNY Fertility Center. Dec. 21, 2010. (June 5, 2012) http://cnyfertility.com/2010/12/21/dhea-supplementation-may-boost-fertility-and-ivf-success/
- Science Daily. "Increasing Fertility Threefold With DHEA?" July 1, 2010. (June 5, 2012) http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/07/100701145535.htm
- WebMD. "DHEA." 2009. (June 5, 2012) http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-331-DHEA.aspx?activeIngredientId=331&activeIngredientName=DHEA