Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) is a common condition in which acid from the stomach travels up into the esophagus and causes heartburn, regurgitation and pain when swallowing. The most common cause of GERD is a weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter (LES), the ring of muscle at the end of the esophagus, allowing the stomach acid to leak up into the esophagus and damage the lining. Researchers from Turkey have revealed that women who give birth to babies using in-vitro fertilization (IVF) were three-times more likely to be diagnosed with GERD than those who had conceived naturally.
For the study, 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 GERD at the time of data collection was found to be 13.5% in the group of women who had received IVF compared with just 4.5% in the group of women who had conceived naturally. The reasons why women who have IVF might be more prone to developing GERD are not yet clear.
However, the study authors proposed a number of possibilities, including medications taken during IVF treatment, 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.
Oliver Pech, head of gastroenterology and Interventional Endoscopy at the St. John of God Hospital in Regensburg in Germany, said, "These are very interesting findings. We really need to investigate how we might prevent the development of GERD in all pregnant women, but particularly in those who receive IVF treatment."