A new study found that women who had failed IVF cycles (did not get pregnant) were at increased risk of developing heart disease (stroke, heart failure or other cardiovascular event) later in life.

The health issues were mainly seen in the first five year after treatment, but n this study the women were only followed from 4 to 22 years after treatment. The number of IVF cycles did not seem to impact a woman’s risk, but those who had a prior miscarriage had a particularly high risk.

Udell stresses, however, that the absolute risk for all of the women in the study was low. About 10 cardiovascular events occurred for every 1,000 women who didn’t get pregnant, versus 6 events for every 1,000 who did. Because this is the first study to report such an association, it should still be validated with other research.

“We don’t want to alarm, and we certainly don’t want the take-home message to be that we should stop doing these treatments,” he says. “But I think it’s an opportunity for women to reflect on potential heart-disease risk factors—either at the time of fertility treatments.”

Other fertility doctors and researchers have pointed out that fertility treatments today are dramatically different than they were when much of the study data was collected.

This study was not able to tease out whether the women experiencing infertility might also have underlying health conditions that could affect their ability to get pregnant and their heart health. (Eg. polycystic ovary syndrome, obesity, high blood pressure or high cholesterol.)

A good summary can be found at Time, Inc.

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