Fertility therapy not associated with long-term cardiovascular disease

Women who gave birth following fertility treatment had no long-term increased risk of death or major cardiovascular events compared to women who gave birth without fertility therapy, according to new research by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES) and Women's College Hospital.

The findings, published today in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, are the first to show fertility medications, which can cause short-term pregnancy complications, are not associated with an increased later in life.

"The speculated association between fertility therapy and subsequent cardiovascular disease is not surprising given that more women are waiting until an older age to have children, when they are at greater risk of developing heart disease," said Dr. Jacob Udell, lead author of the study and at Women's College Hospital.

Fertility therapy is used in nearly one percent of all successful pregnancies in North America. But these medications are known to cause short-term complications such as and hypertension. These short-term risks, however, do not translate into lasting cardiovascular damage according to the researchers.

In the study, researchers assessed the long-term risk of stroke, heart attack and heart failure following fertility therapy among 1.1 million women after delivery over a 17-year follow-up period in Ontario. They found:

  • A five-fold increase in the use of fertility therapy from 1993 to 2010, particularly among older women.
  • The use of fertility therapy was associated with an increase in including a near 30 per cent increase of diabetes in pregnancy, 16 per cent increase in placental disorders and a 10 per cent increase in pre-eclampsia.
  • Women who delivered following fertility therapy had about half the risk of subsequent death compared to women who did not have fertility therapy.
  • Women who delivered following fertility therapy had nearly half the risk of major cardiovascular events such as stroke, and . The researchers do not believe that this is a direct effect of treatment; rather that women undergoing fertility therapy maintain a healthy lifestyle over a long period.
  • Researchers reported no increase in the risk of future breast or ovarian cancer in women who gave birth following fertility therapy.
  • Women who had fertility therapy also experienced fewer mental health events, including one-third the rate of depression and one-sixth the rate of self-harm.

"Our findings provide some reassurance that fertility therapy does not appear to increase long-term risk of following successful ," says Dr. Donald Redelmeier, co-author of the study and a senior scientist at ICES. "The existing literature provides mixed messages, with our results yielding a relatively favourable assessment."

One theory is that women who seek fertility therapy maintain healthier behavior after a successful delivery – a pattern that extends across age and income groups, the researchers say. "Those with successful outcomes may have a powerful and durable change to their lifestyle," says Dr. Redelmeier. "Unknown protective mechanism may also contribute."

"Our findings are encouraging but further research is necessary to explain the full impact of fertility therapy on women's health," Dr. Udell adds. "With a better understanding of the long-term health effects associated with fertility therapy, we can help inform decision making and reduce potential health risks to women."

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

ACOG: Hormone therapy not recommended to prevent CHD

May 24, 2013

(HealthDay)—Menopausal hormone therapy should not be used for prevention of coronary heart disease, according to a Committee Opinion from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) published ...

Women whose first pregnancy was ectopic have fewer children

Oct 17, 2012

Women whose first pregnancy is ectopic are likely to have fewer children in the following 20-30 years than women whose first pregnancy ends in a delivery, miscarriage or abortion, according to results from a study of nearly ...

Recommended for you

Is egg freezing an empowering option for women?

Nov 17, 2014

Katie Hammond, a PhD candidate in the Department of Sociology researching the experience of egg donation in Canada, discusses the recent decision by tech giants Facebook and Apple to offer egg freezing to ...

Peripheral nerve blocks OK for migraines in pregnancy

Nov 14, 2014

(HealthDay)—For migraines that do not respond to medications, peripheral nerve blocks may be a treatment option in pregnant women, according to research published online Nov. 5 in Obstetrics & Gynecology.

Hearing the heart of the mother and her baby

Nov 14, 2014

A group of students from the Autonomous Metropolitan University of Mexico (UAM-I) developed a technological portable prototype able to diagnose health conditions in the mother and in the baby by monitoring ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.