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Multiple IVF cycles and age at menopause: New research suggests there may be a link

Since the first successful IVF treatment in 1978, it has been widely believed that the medications and procedures involved in IVF have no long-term, negative effects on later ovarian functioning. However, a recent research study has demonstrated a link between repeated cycles of IVF and the age at which a woman begins menopause. A total of 65 women who underwent at least one IVF cycle at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria between 1992-1995 answered a questionnaire about general and female health issues. Of this small sample, 32 of the women had spontaneously become menopausal by the time of the follow-up evaluation approximately 12 years later. The researchers defined menopause as amenorrhea (no menstrual period) for over 6 months and the presence of other menopausal-like symptoms such as hot flashes and vaginal dryness. What was most striking for the researchers, was that women who had undergone 6 or more IVF cycles were found to have entered menopause significantly earlier than women who have undergone fewer cycles (46.9 years vs. 49.9 years). According to the research team, these findings suggest a link between IVF and ovarian aging – with more IVF cycles leading to premature ovarian aging. It remains to be determined what may cause this effect and whether it is due to the hormonal stimulation involved in IVF treatment. Clearly more research is needed, but in the meantime, women should not assume that multiple cycles of IVF can be undertaken without any long term health risks or consequences.

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