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Failed fertility treatment linked to higher risk of heart disease and stroke

20 March 2017

By Meetal Solanki

Appeared in BioNews 893

A study has revealed a possible link between unsuccessful fertility treatments and a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Researcher found that women who did not become pregnant after fertility treatment had a 19 percent higher cardiovascular risk of experiencing cardiac events compared with women who had become pregnant following treatment.

'We found that two-thirds of women never became pregnant after being managed for fertility treatment and these women also had worse long-term cardiovascular risk – specifically higher risks of stroke and heart failure, compared with the remaining third of women who did become pregnant and delivered a baby,' said lead author of the study Dr Jacob Udell of the Institute of Clinical Evaluative Sciences in Toronto, Ontario.

However, he pointed out that the overall risk was low – only about ten cardiovascular events occurred in every 1000 women who didn't get pregnant compared with six events for every 1000 who did.

The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, looked at data from over 28,000 women under 50 who had undertaken fertility treatment in Ontario between 1993 and 2011. The women were monitored for adverse cardiac effects until March 2015.

The higher risk is thought to come from the gonadotropin hormone injections that stimulate the ovaries to produce more than one egg per month. Overstimulated ovaries have been shown to secrete hormones that may damage the heart by increasing the chance of blood clots and affecting how the body regulates blood pressure.

Dr Alan Copperman, a reproductive endocrinologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York, who was not involved in the study pointed out that modern fertility treatment very different to that used during the time of the study. 'It's more streamlined and it's a world apart from the primitive technologies we used to use.'

Dr Copperman pointed out that women with infertility may already have underlying health conditions, such as obesity, high blood pressure and polycystic ovary syndrome, that may affect both their heart and their chances of becoming pregnant.

Nevertheless, the authors stress that whether the heart problems are due to the fertility treatment or just an association, the link is still important. '[Having fertility treatment] is a very important choice for many women, and for many women it's the right choice,' said Dr Udell. 'But it's something they should consider carefully, including the potential side-effects and potential long-term risks.'

Science Daily (press release) | 13 March 2017
Medscape | 13 March 2017
Time | 13 March 2017
Canadian Medical Association Journal | 13 March 2017
Mail Online | 13 March 2017


13 February 2017 - by Ayala Ochert 
Miscarriage rates following IVF appear to increase when the clocks go forward in the spring, according to a study...
24 October 2016 - by Nina Chohan 
A study has found that women with higher levels of the 'stress hormone' cortisol in their hair are less likely to conceive through IVF than women with lower levels of the hormone...
25 July 2016 - by Dr Marianne Kennedy 
IVF treatment does not increase a woman's risk of developing breast cancer later in life, a study has found...
11 January 2016 - by Dr Katie Howe 
Children conceived using IVF and other fertility treatments are at no greater risk of developmental delays than children conceived naturally, according to a large US study...
07 December 2015 - by Richard Kennedy 
The 'wonder drug' aspirin has proven benefits in cardiac disease and stroke, and it is increasingly thought to have a role in cancer prevention, but its wider use in support of infertility and assisted reproduction is controversial...

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