Who would have thought that IVF (in vitro fertilization) would have anything to do with the heart? Emotionally yes, for there is heart ache when an IVF cycle fails, heart break with repeated failures and the heart literally burst with joy when an infertile couple sets eyes on their miracle baby! That is affects the heart of both, mother and child pathologically too, has been shown in recent studies.
It is a well known fact that there is an increased incidence of birth defects in babies born after IVF. Studies as recent as Nov 17 have shown that the risk of congenital heart defects is particularly high in such babies. Though the cause is largely unknown, chromosomal anomalies and genetic mutations have been held responsible. A fetal echo (ultrasound of the unborn baby’s heart) is a must to confirm or rule out a congenital heart condition so that the option of an abortion is available to the couple.
Researchers found that women who do not become pregnant after undergoing gonadotropin-based fertility therapy (drugs used for IVF and other assisted reproductive technologies) were at greater risk (19%) of short term cardiovascular events particularly heart failure and stroke as compared to those whose fertility therapy was successful. The repeated use of high dose hormones can lead to the formation of intravascular blood clots that trigger cardiovascular events.
Women who deliver after fertility therapy too were affected but to a lesser degree. This was because those opting for assisted reproduction are likely to be older and may have pre existing condition like diabetes, hypertension and dyslipidemia. Other may develop hypertension and diabetes during pregnancy. These conditions contribute to the development of CVD (cardiovascular disease).
As for long term cardiovascular outcomes, though the results are reassuring at present, further research needs to be done.
Ideally a woman should complete her child bearing during the peak fertility period between 20-30 years. During this period they she is more likely to conceive spontaneously and deliver healthy babies. Her health too is not affected. However in the present scenario the use of fertility therapy is bound to increase as our population chooses to delay marriage and parenthood. The use of fertility therapy and the increasing age may lead to heart conditions in the mother and baby. Increased vigilance is required to ensure safety of the high-dose hormonal treatments used.