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Aug 06, 2013

Fertility Treatments Reduce Cardiovascular Risk in Women

Study appeases concerns about the long-term impact of fertility medications on heart health.

Over the last 20 years, the use of fertility therapy has increased five-fold, especially among older women. Fertility medications are now used for about 1% of births in North America and although valuable, experts wonder about the long-term impacts that fertility treatments may have on women’s health. But according to recent findings published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, fertility medications may somehow protect women’s hearts rather than harm them.

This study identified nearly 1.2 million women who gave birth in Ontario, Canada between 1993 and 2010, about 7,000 of which gave birth following fertility therapy. After following women for more than nine years, researchers found that women using fertility therapy were at increased risk for short-term complications like maternal metabolic syndrome and gestational diabetes. However, after nine years and taking into account differences in age, income and other factors, women using fertility therapy had nearly half the cardiovascular risk than women who conceived naturally. Interestingly, researchers also found that women using fertility treatments did not have increased risk for breast cancer or ovarian cancer and actually had decreased risk of depression.

Needless to say, experts were quite surprised by these findings—especially since they were worried about possible negative impacts that fertility treatments could have on women down the road. More research is needed to better understand the impact of fertility treatments on heart health, but experts have two distinct theories to explain recent findings. The first theory is that women using fertility treatments are more likely to have healthier lifestyles than those who don’t, which could explain the reduced cardiovascular risk. But it’s also possible that fertility treatments have some protective biological effect on women and somehow reduce risk for heart disease in women. Either way, experts hope to conduct future research on the topic to help gain a better understanding of fertility treatments and cardiovascular health.
Read the full article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Questions for You to Consider

  • Why do women take fertility treatments?
  • Women take fertility medication when they have trouble conceiving. These medications can help stimulate ovulation, which increases changes of pregnancy.
  • How do fertility treatments impact heart health in women?
  • Common complications associated with fertility treatments include multiple pregnancy, bleeding or infection, ovarian hyperstimulation syndrome, and premature delivery. Although long-term research on fertility treatments and cardiovascular risk is sparse, research suggests that fertility treatments do not have a negative impact on cardiovascular health.

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