Fertility treatments linked to higher stroke risk

Fertility treatments linked to higher stroke risk

The Link Between Fertility Treatments and Stroke Risk: Exploring the Findings

Doctor talking to patient

Experts say you should consult with a doctor before undergoing any fertility treatments. Maskot/Getty Images

In recent years, fertility treatments have become an increasingly popular option for individuals and couples trying to conceive. However, a new study conducted by researchers at the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Jersey suggests that there may be a link between fertility treatments and an increased risk of stroke. While this finding may be concerning, it is important to understand the context and implications of the study.

The Study: Higher Stroke Risk in Individuals Who Receive Fertility Treatments

The researchers conducted a retrospective study involving over 31 million pregnant women aged 15 to 54. The study aimed to investigate the relationship between fertility treatments and the risk of stroke. The results showed that individuals who received fertility treatments had a 66% higher likelihood of being hospitalized for a stroke within 12 months of delivery compared to those who conceived naturally.

Furthermore, the study found that the risk of hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding in the brain) was more than double in individuals who underwent fertility treatments, while the risk of ischemic stroke (blood clot in the brain) was 55% higher. These risks were evident even within the first 30 days post-delivery, highlighting the need for early and continued follow-up in this population.

Exploring the Potential Causes of the Increased Stroke Risk

The researchers proposed several theories to explain the association between fertility treatments and stroke risk. However, the study did not delve into investigating these theories in detail. One possible factor could be pre-existing conditions, such as pre-pregnancy hypertension, diabetes, or obesity, which are known risk factors for stroke.

Experts caution against drawing definitive conclusions from this study, as it did not account for pre-pregnancy or inter-pregnancy comorbid conditions. It is also important to consider that the fertility cohort may have had a higher baseline risk due to advanced maternal age, which can be associated with an increased likelihood of developing certain conditions during pregnancy.

Understanding the Relative and Absolute Risk of Stroke

While the study findings may raise concerns, it is crucial to understand that the absolute risks of being hospitalized for a stroke, regardless of fertility treatment, are still low. The study reported a rate of 37 hospitalizations per 100,000 for those who received fertility treatments and 29 hospitalizations per 100,000 for those who did not. Therefore, the overall risk remains relatively rare.

Dr. Sahar Wertheimer, a reproductive endocrinologist at HRC Fertility in Southern California, highlights that the study did not differentiate between various types of fertility treatments. Additionally, she emphasizes that the absolute risks reported in the study are small enough that they should not discourage hopeful parents. Fertility treatments have enabled many couples to experience life-changing results and should be considered alongside their potential benefits.

The Importance of Evaluation and Monitoring during Pregnancy

While advanced maternal age is often considered a risk factor for stroke, studies show that pregnancy itself presents a significantly higher risk for stroke, even among younger individuals. Therefore, it is crucial for pregnant individuals to seek evaluation, especially if they have a family history of cardiovascular disease or other risk factors.

Dr. Alex Robles from the Columbia University Fertility Center suggests that individuals should undergo a thorough consultation with a trained reproductive endocrinologist to evaluate their risk and candidacy for fertility treatments. At the Columbia University Fertility Center, a maternal fetal medicine doctor consultation and evaluation are required for high-risk patients. This approach enables the identification of patients who may need closer monitoring or may not be suitable candidates for pregnancy.

The Complex Relationship between Fertility Treatments and Stroke

While the study suggests an increased stroke risk associated with fertility treatments, it is essential to interpret the findings with caution. The study did not establish causality, and further research is needed to comprehensively understand the underlying mechanisms. Future studies should investigate specific types of fertility treatment and consider other factors, such as an individual’s pre-existing conditions and family medical history.

In conclusion, individuals considering fertility treatments should consult with their healthcare providers and discuss any potential risks or concerns. Fertility treatments have provided hope and fulfillment for many individuals and couples struggling with infertility, and with proper evaluation and monitoring, the vast majority will experience safe and successful outcomes.