An international study suggests that fertility treatment does not have a negative impact on the cardiovascular health of offspring

A microscopic view on the process of the IVF treatment

A comprehensive study examining the effects of fertility treatment has found that there are no significant differences in blood pressure, heart rate, lipids (fats), and glucose measurements between children conceived naturally and those conceived using assisted reproductive technologies (ART).

Led by the University of Bristol and published in the European Heart Journal, the study aimed to address concerns about whether fertility treatments might have adverse effects on the cardiometabolic health of offspring. The research analyzed data from 8,600 children participating in Bristol’s “Children of the 90s” study, which has been tracking pregnant women and their offspring since 1991.

Fertility treatments, particularly in vitro fertilization (IVF), have raised questions about potential health risks to children conceived through these methods. Previous studies on this topic have been limited by small sample sizes, short follow-up periods, and inadequate comparison groups.

This study, conducted by an international research group from the Assisted Reproductive Technology and Health (A.R.T-Health) Partnership, involved data from 35,000 children across Europe, Singapore, and Australia. It was large enough to investigate whether ART conception had any impact on blood pressure, pulse rate, lipids, or glucose levels from childhood through early adulthood (up to the early 20s).

The research found that children conceived using ART had similar blood pressure, heart rate, and glucose levels compared to their naturally conceived counterparts. The study did reveal slightly higher cholesterol levels in ART-conceived children during childhood, but this difference did not persist into adulthood. Additionally, there was some indication of slightly higher blood pressure in adulthood for those conceived through ART.

Dr. Ahmed Elhakeem, lead study author and Research Fellow in Epidemiology at the University of Bristol, noted that this is the largest study of its kind and provides reassurance to parents considering or undergoing assisted reproductive technology. Longer-term studies are suggested to examine potential changes in health outcomes across adulthood.

Professor Deborah Lawlor, senior author from Bristol Medical School, emphasized the importance of international collaboration and longitudinal health studies in conducting such research, as participants contribute health data throughout their lives.

Peter Thompson, Chief Executive of The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), highlighted that this study should offer reassurance to the approximately 60,000 patients who use fertility services in the UK each year. The HFEA monitors the latest research in the field and provides information to patients and professionals.

Funding for the study came from the European Research Council, the Medical Research Council (MRC), the British Heart Foundation (BHF), and the National Institute for Health and Care Research Bristol Biomedical Research Centre (NIHR Bristol BRC).