Side Effects of Fertility Treatment May Increase Heart Failure Risk: Study

New research suggests that women who undergo fertility treatments may face an increased risk of experiencing a pregnancy-related type of heart failure, known as peripartum cardiomyopathy.

In a study presented last week at a meeting of the European Society of Cardiology in Athens, researchers from Hannover Medical School indicate that women who undergo in vitro fertilization were more likely to experience the pregnancy heart failure, compared to women who conceive naturally.

Researchers examined data on 111 women with peripartum cardiomyopathy, which is a type of pregnancy related heart failure that affects 1 in 1,000 pregnant women globally, posing life-threatening risks for both the mother and child. Among those women, some underwent fertility treatment and some conceived children naturally.

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Symptoms of peripartum cardiomyopathy include shortness of breath, swollen legs, and waking up during the night to urinate. These are all common symptoms experienced during a typical pregnancy, which can make it difficult for a woman to know something may be wrong. This can lead to late diagnosis and potentially dire consequences.

According to the findings, side effects of fertility treatments were linked to a five times higher risk of peripartum cardiomyopathy when compared to women did not undergo treatments.

Many women who have fertility treatments can undergo multiple rounds if the first is not successful or after a lost pregnancy. This can increase a woman’s risk even further, according to the findings.

Furthermore, lost pregnancies can also induce peripartum cardiomyopathy. Women who undergo fertility treatments are often older and more likely to have a c-section, which are two additional risk factors for pregnancy related heart failure, as are treatments that result in multiple fetuses.

“In all women who have conceived artificially, gynaecologists and fertility doctors should advise cardiac checks including echocardiography after delivery, or shortly before, to rule out PPCM,” Professor Denise Hilfiker-Kleiner, the study’s senior author, said in a May 25 press release. “Women who have developed signs of cardiac stress or impaired function should know that another cycle may increase their risk of becoming severely ill.”

The findings are considered preliminary until published in a peer reviewed journal.


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