Women who give birth to babies using in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) are at increased risk of a chronic digestive disease, says a new study.
The researchers from Turkey compared two groups of women who had given birth to their first child at least one year earlier and found that those who had had IVF were three-times more likely to be diagnosed with gastro-oesophageal reflux disease (GORD), than those who had conceived naturally.
GORD is a common condition in which acid from the stomach travels up into the oesophagus and causes heartburn, regurgitation and pain when swallowing.
The most common cause of GORD is a weakening of the lower oesophageal sphincter (LOS) (the ring of muscle at the end of the oesophagus), allowing the stomach acid to leak up into the oesophagus and damage the lining.
For the study the researchers compared 156 first time mothers who conceived using IVF with an age-matched control group of women who had conceived naturally.
The prevalence of GORD at the time of data collection was found to be 13.5 percent in the group of women who had received IVF compared with just 4.5 percent in the group of women who had conceived naturally.
The reasons why women who have IVF might be more prone to developing GORD are not clear.
However, the study authors proposed a number of possibilities, including medications taken during IVF, psychological causes associated with fertility issues (such as stress, depression and anxiety), and the possibility that women who undergo IVF may spend long periods of time lying down for fear of miscarriage.
“These are very interesting findings,” said Oliver Pech, head of gastroenterology and Interventional Endoscopy at the St. John of God Hospital in Regensburg in Germany and Associate Editor of the UEG Journal where the study was published.
“We really need to investigate how we might prevent the development of GORD in all pregnant women, but particularly in those who receive IVF treatment,” Pech noted