Assisted reproductive technologies (ART) were developed in 1978 and helped millions of individuals and families who cannot conceive naturally have the children they so desire. In Vitro Fertilization (IVF), the most common ART method is an assisted reproductive technology that involves fertilizing extracted eggs with a sperm sample in a laboratory setting, followed by transfer of embryos to the uterus. For many in vitro fertilization allows for pregnancy in situations of infertility in either men or women and accounts for almost 2 percent of all infants born in the United States every year, and over six million persons worldwide. However, a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology shows that children conceived through IVF may be at increased risk of developing hypertension along with other cardiovascular complications early in life.
Hypertension, more commonly known as high blood pressure, occurs when your heart is pumping blood through narrow arteries, leading to elevated blood pressure which can eventually cause health complications such as heart disease. There may be no signs or symptoms of high blood pressure, and it generally develops over many years, damaging blood vessels and your heart. Risk factors for hypertension may include age, race, family history, weight, stress, and other compounding factors such as tobaccos use and alcohol consumption. Researchers from the University Hospital in Bern, Switzerland now show that conception via IVF may increase the risk of hypertension.
The study assessed 54 young healthy adolescents, an average age of 16, that were conceived via ART and had similar cardiovascular risk profiles and compared them to 43 age- and sex-matched control participants. Participants blood pressure, plaque build-up, blood vessel function, and artery stiffness were all measured over 24 hours. Researchers also had obtained the same data from participants 5 years before the study. The results showed that adolescents conceived via ART had higher blood pressure than control participants of natural conception, with eight of the ART adolescents being diagnosed with hypertension compared to only one of the control participants. When compared to the data from five years prior, they found that blood pressure did not differ significantly between ART and control adolescents but instead had developed with time.
"The increased prevalence of arterial hypertension in ART participants is what is most concerning," said Emrush Rexhaj, MD, director of Arterial Hypertension and Altitude Medicine at Inselspital, University Hospital in Bern, Switzerland and the lead author of the study. "There is growing evidence that ART alters the blood vessels in children, but the long-term consequences were not known. We now know that this places ART children at a six times higher rate of hypertension than children conceived naturally." Further study should focus on bolstering the findings by analyzing individuals at more than one procreation center as well as including individuals outside of single-birth children. These findings show the importance of detection and treatment of ART adolescents for appropriate preventative action early on.
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