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Research findings

European Research Grant for project on infertility and cardiovascular disease

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Does infertility affect the risk of developing cardiovascular disease? A new research project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) will look for answers. The project is led by Maria C. Magnus at the Center for Fertility and Health.

Bilde av Maria Christine Magnus
Maria Christine Magnus.

Does infertility affect the risk of developing cardiovascular disease? A new research project funded by the European Research Council (ERC) will look for answers. The project is led by Maria C. Magnus at the Center for Fertility and Health.


The aim is to find out whether infertility, taking a long time to conceive, affects the risk of cardiovascular disease.

– Previous studies suggest that women with fertility problems may have an increased risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack. However, existing studies are small, and several unanswered questions remain. The new project will clarify whether men and women who spend a long time getting pregnant have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, says Magnus.

The project will run over five years, and is entitled "Understanding the causal nature of the relationship between infertility and cardiovascular disease."

Is infertility an early indicator of poorer cardiovascular health?

In the project, the researchers will also look at whether known risk factors for cardiovascular disease, such as obesity, smoking and high blood pressure, affect fertility in both sexes, and therefore if infertility can be an early indicator of underlying pre-existing higher risk of cardiovascular disease.

ERC Starting grants are awarded to researchers two to seven years after completing their doctorate. The scholarship is highly valued and is only given to researchers with a proven trach record and innovative research ideas. The narrow eye of the needle shows that the research is of high international quality.

Studying common causes in both sexes

The focus on both sexes is a unique aspect of the project. This will clarify whether an increased risk of cardiovascular disease among infertile men and women has the same causes.

 – If the classic risk factors for cardiovascular disease affect fertility, there is a high probability that this can be common to both men and women, says Magnus.

If this is the case, it may be possible to reduce the burden of infertility in the population by weight reduction, smoking cessation or other measures aimed at classic risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

– It is nevertheless important to clarify whether there may also be gender-specific explanations. We will therefore look more closely at whether pregnancy complications and the use of in vitro fertilization can explain a possible increased risk of cardiovascular disease among infertile women, Magnus explains.

Compilation of various population surveys

The project will use information from two large population surveys and several central health registries. This includes the Norwegian Mother, Father and Child Survey (MoBa) and the Health Survey in Trøndelag (HUNT).

– By compiling the information obtained in several of the Norwegian population surveys and health registers, we gain access to unique data material to answer the research questions, says Magnus.

Illuminates two positions

The project will start in January 2021.

The Center for Fertility and Health has advertised a doctoral fellow position and a postdoctoral position funded by the project.

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The Centre for Fertility and Health is a Centre of Excellence (SFF) at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.