Since February is “Heart Awareness Month” I have had many patients ask if and how their fertility treatment will affect their heart. Although there is not a lot of research on this topic, there is one good study called the GRAVID Study (General Reproductive Assistance and Vascular Illness Study). This is the first large, population-based study to assess long-term risk of CVD following fertility therapy. This study shows that woman who gave birth after receiving fertility therapy had about half the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) or death in the subsequent decade, compared with women who gave birth without this therapy. However, this study also confirms that fertility therapy increased the odds of short-term pregnancy complications such as gestational diabetes and hypertension.
Risk of Future Cardiovascular & Heart Disease
Fertility medications given to women to stimulate eggs to grow also increase estrogen levels significantly. This has been shown to result in a higher risk of gestational diabetes and hypertension, which may put these women at greater risk of future CVD. It is becoming more important to look at the risk of CVD, as the rate of fertility therapy increases and older women with a higher likelihood of baseline heart disease are becoming pregnant. The GRAVID study supported this concern. Women who seek fertility treatment or plan to become pregnant at an older age should know that they are at increased risk of pregnancy complications. Physicians should advise these women to monitor their blood pressure and to stay away from cigarettes.
The reassuring finding was that long term, women who received fertility therapy were not more likely to develop hypertension, diabetes or hyperlipidemia, nor did they have a significant increased risk of breast or ovarian cancer. They also experienced fewer mental-health events, including one-third the rate of subsequent depression. These findings suggest that this may be a group that has a very healthy lifestyle, particularly after they have gone through what they have to go through to have a successful pregnancy.
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