Research articles

DHEA supplementation improves follicular microenvironment in poor responder patients.

To analyze the effect of dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) supplementation on follicular microenvironment and on in vitro fertilization (IVF) outcomes among poor responder patients.

Study design:

We enrolled 24 patients diagnosed as poor responders based on ESHRE consensus criteria. One group received 25mg/die three times daily of DHEA supplementations for 3 months previous to IVF cycle, while the other did not receive any treatment. COH was performed with rFSH and hMG and a GnRH antagonist was administered according to a flexible protocol. We evaluated perifollicular vascularization of recruited follicles through power Doppler blow flow analysis and follicles were graded as described by Chui et al. Follicular fluids (FF) from F3-F4 follicles were collected, and FF level of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and hyponix inducible factor1 (HIF1) were measured.


FF levels of HIF1 were statistically significant lower in women treated with DHEA (14.76 ±51.13 vs. 270.03 ± 262.18 pg/ml; p = 0.002). On the contrary, VEGF levels did not differ between the two groups. Concerning COH, in the DHEA-group the mean duration of treatment was significantly shorter (9.83 ± 1.85 vs. 12.09 ± 2.81; p= 0.023). Total numbers of oocytes retrieved, fertilized oocytes, good quality embryos, number of transferred embryos and clinical pregnancies tended to be higher in study group, but the results were not significant. On the other hand, considering the oocytes retrieved in selected F3-F4 follicles, there was a relation between HIFI1 levels and oocytes quality. In fact, mature oocytes retrieved in selected follicles were significantly more numerous in DHEA-group (0.50 ± 0.52 vs. 0.08 ± 0.29; p= 0.01).


The improvement of reproductive parameters after DHEA supplementation in poor responders may be explained through the effect that this pro-hormone exerts on follicular microenvironment.