IVF babies aren’t more susceptible to developmental problems, in comparison with infants who have been conceived naturally, according to a recent study appearing on January 4 in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.
Research was coordinated by Edwina Yeung, investigator at the Epidemiology branch of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
More than 5,800 children enrolled in the Upstate KIDS survey were included in the analysis: all of them had been born in the state of New York sometime between 2008 and 2010, and 1,830 of them had been the result of various treatments for infertility.
More precisely, some had been conceived after their would-be mothers turned to fertility drugs in order to boost ovulation, while others had been born following more complex procedures involving assisted reproductive technology (ART), such as in vitro fertilization or artificial insemination.
The purpose of the study was to determine if children who had been conceived naturally were less exposed to developmental disorders, in contrast with those who had been delivered following fertility treatments.
Prior studies conducted on laboratory animals, as well as on human subjects, had suggested that specific types of assisted reproduction made it more likely for kids to experience delays when it came to acquiring essential skills.
More precisely, such children appeared to have greater difficulty in developing abilities related to communication, learning and reasoning, social interaction, muscle coordination and dexterity.
In order to test this theory, the authors of this new research carried out regular screenings, consisting in surveys administered to parents, so as to detect potential problems faced by children while solving puzzles, verbalizing their thoughts and feelings, or socializing with others.
The Ages and Stages Questionnaire also took into account other aspects, such as motor skills and optimal child growth standards (weight, height etc.).
A more thorough assessment was conducted across more than 400 kids in the original group, once they turned 3 or 4, and determined exactly which of them was now suffering from a developmental disorder, including autism, speech impediments and learning difficulties.
Overall, such problems were diagnosed among 18% of those in the natural conception group, and among 13% of those in the other group.
It was discovered that children who had been born after their parents resorted to fertility medication (such as Clomiphene) weren’t more vulnerable to developmental problems than their counterparts who had been conceived without prior treatments.
The same lack of differentiation was identified when it came to babies that had been born following artificial insemination.
Obvious disparities were reported when analyzing infants who had been the result of in vitro fertilization, such as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI).
However, when considering other contributing aspects, like prenatal exposure to alcohol and tobacco, the parents’ age and academic background, as well as the greater number of twins being born following IVF, researchers came to the conclusion that fertility treatments didn’t actually have a statistically significant impact on the baby’s evolution.
As explained by study author Edwina Yeung, twin siblings are much more likely to be premmies (born before 37 weeks of pregnancy have passed) and to have a smaller weight, thus having an elevated likelihood of being affected by developmental issues.
While assisted reproductive technologies aren’t actually the source of these problems, they do usually lead to multiple births, even in this study twinning rates being 34% among in vitro babies, and 19% among the rest.
Precisely for this reason doctors recommend that just one embryo should be implanted during in vitro fertilization, since the treatment is now safe and reliable enough to ensure success without relying on multiple eggs.
The study’s findings appear therefore comforting to parents who aren’t able to conceive naturally, and turn to various fertility treatments instead.
While just 1 to 2% of the total annual number of births are currently being assisted by artificial insemination and similar techniques, such cases are becoming more frequent nowadays.
Nonetheless, researchers still recommend that these procedures should be carried out before the woman turns 35, in order to boost the likelihood of becoming pregnant.
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