Many couples now use the internet and social media to educate themselves about fertility testing and treatment options.
However, in our news hungry world a lot of information can spread about what to do when trying to conceive (TTC) that it can become daunting, or at the very least confusing.
At Awakening Fertility Fiona Kacz-Boulton and her small team of researchers gather and assimilate evidence to take the guess work out for you.
New Treatment Option Everyone Should Be Doing
What are the two supplements that infertility forums, Facebook and in chat rooms hail as the new treatment option that everybody should be doing?
The answer is DHEA and CoQ10.
In this article two widely available supplements, DHEA and CoQ10 are discussed and the evidence evaluated on their ability to be considered as a treatment for infertility.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) – What is it?
DHEA is in a class of steroid hormones known as androgens. It is a precursor to testosterone and estrogens, which means that those hormones are made from it. In humans, DHEA is made in the adrenal glands; for women it is also made in the ovaries.
DHEA production peaks in your mid-20s. In most people, DHEA, testosterone and oestrogen production gradually decline with age.
DHEA supplementation can increase these hormones
That’s why a number of claims have been made about their potential benefits for couples experiencing infertility.
That said, it is very difficult to separate the effects of natural aging from environmental effects like smoking, drinking, drug use, and radiation exposure. (Note, our water supply has radiation in, but that is a different topic altogether). There is a whole variety of environmental toxic assaults which accumulate over time, so we can no longer solely link infertility to age. (Read more on the link between toxins and fertility here)
Why DHEA may be needed?
In terms of evidence there are some statistics and just a few studies, as well as case studies, which have shown positive outcomes for women with a diminished ovarian reserve (DOR) due to the following reasons:
In the successful cases, a dosage of 75mg of micronized (very fine particles) DHEA is taken over a period ranging from 6 weeks to 3 months.
It is important to stress that DHEA must only be taken in consultation with a medical practitioner who can monitor the dosage level.
Side Effects of DHEA
DHEA does have unwelcome side effects which can include:
- Weight loss
- Hormonal imbalance
- Acne and/or oily skin
Specifically, women with PCOS have elevated levels of androgens and should never take DHEA, as it will acerbate two unwelcome side effects of PCOS – acne and unwanted hair growth.
Many fertility clinics have found increased results in helping women who were once told “you can only achieve pregnancy through egg donation” by simply having them supplement with DHEA prior to and through IVF. If you have diminished ovarian reserve, DHEA is a supplement you should definitely talk to your doctor about.
It is important to note that DHEA is not going to resolve reproductive health-related infertility. It appears to focus on egg health, so while it may be helpful in achieving pregnancy; it is not going to fix other health-related fertility issues a person may be dealing with.
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) – What is it?
Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is considered by many to be a miracle nutrient because virtually all living cells need it for basic functioning of cells. It is a source of fuel for the mitochondria – which are organelles inside cells that are “power plants” that convert energy for the cell to use.
Note – When you feed your mitochondria you feed your adrenals which are responsible for hormone health (essential for fertility)
CoQ10 functions as an antioxidant because of its ability to loosely hold electrons and give them up as needed to quench free radicals. In other words it acts as an “antioxidant shield”, protecting our DNA from damage.
Why CoQ10 may be needed?
The most biologically active form of coenzyme Q10, known as Ubiquinol, has been shown through several studies to improve both egg and sperm health, while playing a key role in protecting DNA at a cellular level.
A research study in Canada gave coenzyme Q10 to mice, before they were given ovarian stimulation. These mice made more follicles and better eggs compared to mice that were not given Co Q10. Also according to the researchers, the Co Q10 seemed to cause the older mice to produce eggs that functioned more like eggs from younger mice.
This study suggests the possibility of a fertility benefit for women with low ovarian reserve and for older women.
This is because as part of the human ageing process, the chances of pregnancy decline, largely due to a decline in egg health.
The process of reproduction and starting normal embryo development requires a lot of energy. Mitochondria are very tiny organelles within cells that generate a lot of the energy that cells need. Human eggs have more mitochondria and mitochondrial DNA than any other cell in the body.
Part of the problem in older eggs is their decreased mitochondrial energy production. Perhaps eggs could function more effectively and efficiently if something could be done to increase the number or health of the mitochondria in the eggs? Maybe the egg could do a better job of maintaining chromosomal normalcy if it had enough energy reserves?
Studies have shown that the presence of the most biologically active form of coenzyme Q10 Ubiquinol in the cell membrane may help reduce cell and DNA damage caused by free radicals, which has been shown to reduce blood pressure and improve egg health, sperm health and in turn embryo quality.
Free radicals are unstable molecules that can damage cell structures. In normal everyday life free radicals are produced from the activity in our bodies (for example free radicals are made during ATP synthesis for energy production) but chemicals in our surrounding environment can also create free radicals. It is said that each cell in our body is attacked about 10,000 times a day by free radicals, accelerating the aging process.
Some diseases associated with infertility and reproductive dysfunction are linked to oxidative stress including endometriosis, unexplained infertility, PCOS, POF, menstrual cycle irregularities, preterm labor, recurrent miscarriage, egg health, sperm health and motility. Several studies show that antioxidant supplementation can reduce oxidative stress, which positively affects the outcome of each of these issues.
CoQ10 is present in and part of our dietary intake. It is mostly found in organic meats, dark leafy green vegetables like spinach, nuts, seafood, and meat. It has been estimated that the average daily intake of CoQ10 is about 3 to 6 mg per day. This is a minute amount when compared to the suggested dose, which is usually between 50 to 600 mg daily in divided doses.
In the case of coenzyme Q10 we can’t justify its use for improving fertility in women based on existing evidence.
On the other hand, there’s no evidence that there is harm from using CoQ10 and it is unlikely that there would be harm since this enzyme is present in every cell in the body and is produced within cells regardless of whether it is present in the diet or not.
Healthy diet and lifestyle practices are critical for all fertility patients; however supplementation is often necessary to reach therapeutic levels of certain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. There is significant evidence suggesting that CoQ10 should be part of anyone’s prenatal plan, if they are going to have children over the age of 35.
Consider a consultation with a fertility specialist, aimed at providing an individually tailored pre-conception plan to optimize your fertility.
Working with a natural fertility consultant opens up a whole new pathway for those on a fertility journey. They can provide the information, expertise and guidance you need, to educate and inform you from the very beginning of your journey through to becoming a parent. And if you’ve been travelling the natural fertility path for several months or years without conceiving, they can provide insight, research and advice regarding the fertility struggles you may be facing.
Over 40? Ubiquinol is Better Than CoQ10
If you are over 40 then studies state that ubiquinol is better than CoQ10. Read how and why here.
Real case studies by people who have taken DHEA
Read their stories:
“I struggled with infertility for 3 years. Had 6 iuis and a fresh/frozen ivf cycle. I swear by DHEA.
Make sure it says micronized DHEA. I took 25mg 3x a day for 3 months. Just to be clear, it’s not a miracle supplement that knocks you up – it’s supposed to help with follicle development and count. I was diagnosed with low AMH and therefore (theoretically) low ovarian reserve. I truly believe DHEA helped with increasing my follicles come IVF harvest time.
I know it made a difference with mature follies because of what happened during our last IUI attempt. I took the same dosage of injectible meds for couple of IUI cycles. I’d usually have 2 maybe 3 follies by trigger time. The one post-DHEA, I had SIX. When it came time for ivf, they got 15 follies, 11 were mature and all 11 fertilized via ICSI. Not bad for a gal with shitty AMH.
Btw, some girls have side effects with DHEA. Mine was oily skin.”
“I swear by it. It needs to be the micronized I took 25 mg two times a day and it doubled the amount of my follicles if not tripled. I’m only thirty but my ovaries did not show that so I took it for 6-7 weeks and it helped.
I did not lose weight I actually stayed the same and had trouble losing weight.”
“I only took DHEA for about a week before I conceived my rainbow baby. What I think may have done the trick for me was coq10. Google it and egg quality. I took about 600 mg per day for over 4 months before conceiving for the third time but only pregnancy that didn’t end in a miscarriage. I delivered a healthy baby at age 39.
I have heard with DHEA you should have your levels monitored. So I doubt DHEA did the trick for me.”
“I took DHEA for just over a year from October 2011 to December 2012, while DH and I were trying to conceive naturally and during a medicated cycle. But then in early 2013 my RE said to stop taking it. I had several side effects from it, like some fibroids in one breast and acne. The REsaid that it was not the recommended supplement now (he said it was passee!), and that I should take CoQ10. I started taking CoQ10 in April this year and took two 400mg capsules per day, and we just got pregnant from our first IVF cycle this month! I’m 41, so I was also working on getting better egg quality. If your RE recommends DHEA, also ask him/her about CoQ10. They can both be pricey. But it’s worth it if it works!”
Advanced Fertility Centre of Chicago Blog: http://www.advancedfertility.com/blog/coenzyme-q10-and-fertility/
Community Baby Centre Support Posts: http://community.babycenter.com/post/a42904510/dhea
TICK TOCK GOES MY BIOLOGICAL CLOCK: CoQ10 and its role in ageing eggs Blog by Naturopathic Docotor Tracy Malone, ND: http://www.iaac.ca/en/tick-tock-goes-my-biological-clock-coq10-and-its-role-in-aging-eggs-3
US National Library of Medicine: PubMed http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23889217
Fiona Kacz-Boulton is a Fertility Specialist
(An expert in her field since 2007) and leader in fertility yoga – inspiring people to evolve on their conscious journey to parenthood.
Founder of Awakening Fertility – Harley Street and Clapham, London.
- Fertility Coach
- Fertility Support Group Co-ordinator for Harley Street Fertility Clinic and Infertility Network UK
- Nutrition Counsellor
- Public Speaker
- QiYoga® Founder
- Fertility Yoga Teacher Trainer (RYS 200)
- Fertile Lifestyle Motivator
- Fertility Support Group Facilitator
- Fertility Practitioner Training Co-ordinator
Through her coaching programmes, Fiona helps navigate major transitions to detox your mind (and body) to help you effectively ‘think yourself fertile.’
Book your 30 minute complimentary consultation
With founder of Awakening Fertility, Fiona Kacz-Boulton here
Other Topics Worth Reading:
- Over 40? Ubiquinol is Better Than CoQ10 – Read here
- Avoid Toxins for Fertility – Read here
- Detoxifying for Fertility – Read here
- Balancing Hormones for Fertility: Balance Menstrual Cycles Too – Read more
Got questions, comments or something to share?
Please leave them below.