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Fertility Treatment is Not Linked to Offspring Health Problems

a blog by Kim Griffiths, April 9, 2013

A study published in the journal Human Reproduction in March 2013 says there is no conclusive evidence for increased risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder in children born of in vitro fertilization (IVF). This study is similar to another released last month, which concluded that health complications in offspring born after infertility is typically the result of some other underlying cause rather than fertility treatment.

The Autism case study, conducted at the University of Turku Department of Child Psychiatry in Finland, included data from over 4,000 recorded cases of Autism and 16,582 controls (children not diagnosed with Autism) who were born in Finland between 1991 and 2005. All Autism diagnoses were recorded by 2007 and the oldest age at diagnosis was sixteen.

Although certain prenatal factors, including maternal age, lack of folic acid intake, and maternal health complications, can increase the risk of Autism Spectrum Disorders, studies that have examined the link between IVF and Autism have not produced consistent findings. Most perinatal problems noted in IVF are associated with multiples gestation rather than the fertility treatment itself.

Some of the risks of multiples gestation include:

  • Low birth weight. Low birth weight is associated with disabilities such as cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness, and learning disabilities.
  • Preterm birth. Pre-term birth for twins includes any time before 35 weeks gestation.
  • Pre-eclampsia. High blood pressure, protein in the urine, and swelling which can cause growth issues for the babies.
  • Gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is linked to larger babies; increases risk of diabetes and health issues later in life for the baby and also the mother.

The other aforementioned study, to be published in Fetal & Neonatal Edition of Archives of Disease in Childhood, suggests that children born after infertility have increased risk of neurological development complications. Similarly, these complications are not linked to the fertility treatment process, but in this case to infertility itself.

The good news is that fertility treatment does not seem to cause developmental complications in offspring. However, as with any medical condition or medical treatment, fertility patients should be aware of potential risks, be proactive about health screenings, and make educated decisions on the number of embryos to transfer in order to yield the greatest chance at a healthy, live birth with minimal health risks.


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