Unsuccessful Fertility Therapy Has Modest Impact on Heart Disease Risk

In vitro fertilization

Women who undergo treatments to help them conceive but who do not become pregnant have a slightly higher risk of heart disease later in life than women who do have a child after fertility treatment, according to a new study. Some media coverage emphasized the increased risk. However, the risk is small and should not cause undue concern, cautioned researchers from the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES), in Ontario.

The study followed almost 30,000 women under the age of 50 who underwent fertility therapy between 1993 and 2011, with an average number of three treatment cycles. About one-third of the women gave birth within a year of their final treatment. Of the two-thirds who did not give birth, the risk of having a cardiovascular event such as heart attack, stroke or heart failure was about 10 per 1,000 women over the 10 years after fertility treatment. For women who did give birth, the risk was about 6 per 1,000 over the same period of time.

“We don’t want to alarm women who undergo fertility therapy; we are instead suggesting that as women age, they should stay mindful of their health and remind their physician about any fertility therapy years earlier,” said Donald Redelmeier, MD, of ICES in an accompanying press release. “It can be an opportunity for their doctor to review other risk factors for heart disease and discuss ways to protect against future cardiac problems.”

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