Fertility Treatment May Increase Stroke Risk Throughout First Year After Childbirth: Study

Researchers warn that women undergoing fertility treatments should be screened for other stroke risks before trying to get pregnant

Women who undergo fertility treatments face a higher risk of suffering a stroke for up to a year after giving birth, according to the findings of a new study, which highlights the importance of early and continued follow up for patients.

In a report published late last week in the medical journal JAMA Network Open researchers from Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School warn that the risk of hemorrhagic stroke appears to be more than double among mothers who underwent fertility treatments to conceive.

The study included more than 31.3 million pregnant participants who delivered between 2010 and 2018, with researchers comparing those who received fertility treatments to those who did not. The researchers used data from the Nationwide Readmissions Database, which stores data from all-payer hospital inpatient stays from 28 states across the United States.

Nearly 288,000 participants underwent infertility treatments during the study period, including artificial insemination, assisted reproductive technologies like embryo freezing and in-vitro fertilization, and surrogates.

According to the findings, the rate of strokes among those who received infertility treatments was 37 stroke hospitalizations per 100,000, compared to only 29 per 100,000 people in the group of patients who conceived naturally.

Participants who underwent fertility treatments faced an increased risk of suffering a stroke in the first 30 days after delivery, but the risk continued to increase in the year following childbirth. Ultimately, new mothers who underwent fertility treatments faced more than double the risk of suffering a hemorrhagic stroke or brain bleeds, researchers concluded.

The researchers determined that the risk of hemorrhagic stroke was greater than the risk of ischemic stroke. But the risk for ischemic stroke was still 55% greater among those who were treated for infertility.

The study did not account for other risk factors for stroke, like smoking, obesity, and hypertension.

Fertility Treatment Concerns

The number of patients turning to fertility treatments has been increasing in recent years, but prior research has linked fertility treatments to increased risks for both the mother and child, ranging from increased risk of birth defects, preeclampsia, and preterm birth. Roughly 2% of all births in the U.S. involve some type of fertility treatment.

Research published in 2022 indicated children conceived via fertility treatments like IVF face an increased risk of developing blood and liver cancers. Fertility treatments also affect the mother and may increase the risk of a type of pregnancy-related heart failure known as peripartum cardiomyopathy.

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Researchers of the new study say there is no cause for alarm, but expecting mothers should be warned of the potential risks of infertility treatments before they use them to conceive.

Stroke accounts for 7% of all pregnancy-related deaths in the U.S., which has higher maternal death rates than in any other industrialized, wealthy nation.

In the last two decades, maternal death rates more than doubled in the U.S. and are high for women of color, especially Black women, who face the highest risk of maternal mortality.

Screening patients for other stroke risk factors and timely follow-up during the post-partum period among patients who underwent fertility treatment is crucial to help reduce the risk, researchers noted.


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