Infertility treatments raise risk of heart and pregnancy complications
If you are one of the millions of women who plan to use infertility treatments to have a baby, be aware that new research found women may be at increased risk for vascular and pregnancy-related complications, especially if they are 35 or older.
The study, published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Heart Association, compared more than 106,000 deliveries in which the baby was conceived with assisted reproductive technology to more than 34 million births conceived without such aid.
Women who used infertility treatments had more preexisting health conditions, such as high blood pressure and diabetes, and were more likely to be obese when they started treatment.
Women using assisted reproductive technology to get pregnant had a 2.5 times higher risk of acute kidney failure and a 65% higher risk for an irregular heartbeat. They also had a 57% higher risk of placental abruption, when the placenta separates from the inner wall of the uterus before birth. The women were also 38% more likely to need a cesarean delivery, and 26% more likely to have the baby born prematurely.
A limitation of the study was that it did not compare different fertility treatments, which is an important distinction. A woman requiring a short course of fertility pills in order to conceive and a woman requiring multiple cycles of IVF were all lumped together in this study.
There may be significant differences between groups based on type of fertility treatment, length of treatment, and time between treatment and conception. There were increased risks for women who underwent fertility treatments even when they had no preexisting symptoms of heart disease.
According to the current study, 1 in 5 women enter pregnancy with a history of cardiovascular risk factors, which can raise health risks for the woman as she carries and delivers her child.
The take home message is that physicians should counsel all women with preexisting cardiovascular risk factors who might become pregnant about pregnancy related risks, whether or not they have a history of infertility.
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