Infertility Treatment Doubles the Risk of Developing Postpartum Heart Disease

Individuals who undergo infertility treatments face an increased risk of being hospitalized with postpartum heart disease in the year following delivery, new research has found.

Cardiovascular disease is known to be a major cause of maternal mortality, and a new study has found that patients who used infertility treatments to conceive were more than twice as likely to be hospitalized with heart disease after giving birth than those who conceived naturally.

The study, conducted by Rutgers Health experts and published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, found that this group was particularly at risk of being hospitalized with dangerously high blood pressure.

According to previous research, cardiovascular disease is the single largest cause of indirect maternal mortality — accounting for over 33% of pregnancy-related maternal deaths.

The researchers say their findings underscore the importance of providing patients with a checkup three weeks postpartum — a recommendation that is now considered standard of care but has not yet been universally adopted.

“Postpartum checkups are necessary for all patients, but this study indicates they are particularly important for patients who undergo infertility treatment to achieve a conception,” said Rei Yamada, lead author of the study and an obstetrics and gynecology resident at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, in a news release.

The researchers conducted the study by analyzing information from the Nationwide Readmissions Database, which consists of nationally representative data on hospital discharges and readmissions and indicates the diagnoses of patients.

Using data from more than 31 million patients who were discharged after giving birth between 2010 and 2018, the researchers identified 287,813 patients who had undergone any kind of infertility treatment.

They found that these patients were more than twice as likely to be readmitted to hospital with heart disease in the year following delivery, with much of the risk occurring in the first month, especially for those with extremely elevated blood pressure.

But the overall risk of readmission with heart disease for all patients was actually relatively low, likely due to their youthful ages, the authors said. While 550 of every 100,000 women who received infertility treatment were hospitalized with cardiovascular disease in the year after delivery, just 355 of every 100,000 who conceived naturally were hospitalized with the condition.

The authors don’t yet know why those who underwent infertility treatment faced an increased risk. They hypothesize that it could be due to the infertility treatments themselves, underlying health issues that may have led to infertility to begin with, or something else. Next, they hope to determine whether different types of infertility treatments and medications result in different risk levels.

This study is one of several projects by the same researchers demonstrating the risks of heart disease and stroke for postpartum individuals within the first month of delivery — particularly among certain high-risk populations, including those who’ve used infertility treatments — and they say the risks could be mitigated with proactive, earlier follow-ups.

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