Infertility Treatments do not Appear to Contribute to Developmental Delays in Children
January 4, 2015 - 11:34 AM
Children conceived via infertility treatments are no more likely to
have a developmental delay than children conceived without such
treatments, according to a study by researchers at the National
Institutes of Health, the New York State Department of Health and other
institutions. The findings, published online in JAMA Pediatrics, may
help to allay longstanding concerns that conception after infertility
treatment could affect the embryo at a sensitive stage and result in
The authors found no differences in developmental assessment scores
of more than 1,800 children born to women who became pregnant after
receiving infertility treatment and those of more than 4,000 children born to women who did not undergo such treatment.
“When we began our study, there was little research on the potential
effects of conception via fertility treatments on U.S. children,” said
Edwina Yeung, Ph.D., an investigator in the Division of Intramural
Population Health Research at NIH’s Eunice Kennedy Shriver
National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). “Our
results provide reassurance to the thousands of couples who have relied
on these treatments to establish their families.”
Also taking part in the study were researchers from the University at
Albany, New York; the New York State Department of Health, also in
Albany; and CapitalCare Pediatrics in Troy, New York. The Upstate KIDS
study enrolled infants born to women in New York State (except for New
York City) from 2008 to 2010. Parents of infants whose birth
certificates indicated infertility treatment were invited to enroll
their children in the study, as were all parents of twins and other
multiples. The researchers also recruited roughly three times as many
singletons not conceived via infertility treatment. Four months after
giving birth, the mothers indicated on a questionnaire the type of
infertility treatment they received:
In vitro fertilization — fertilization in a laboratory dish, after eggs and sperm are taken from the couple.
Frozen embryo transfer — implantation of an embryo that had been previously frozen.
Assisted hatching — placement of a microscopic hole in the zona pellicuda, the protein covering of the embryo.
Gamete intrafallopian transfer — mixing of sperm and egg before placing them in the fallopian tube.
Zygote intrafallopian transfer — placement of fertilized egg (zygote) into the fallopian tube.
Ovulation induction — treatment with drugs that stimulate ovulation
Intrauterine insemination — placement of the sperm directly in the uterus via a narrow tube.
Parents also completed a questionnaire
to screen children for developmental disabilities at numerous intervals
throughout their children’s first three years of life: at 4-6, 8, 12,
18, 24 and 36 months of age. The questionnaire covered five main
developmental areas, or domains: fine motor skills, gross motor skills,
communication, personal and social functioning, and problem solving
ability. Overall, children conceived via fertility treatments scored
similarly to other children on the five areas covered in the
When the researchers considered only children conceived through ART,
they found that they were at increased risk for failing any one of the
five domains, with the greatest likelihood of failing the
personal-social and problem solving domains.
However, twins were more likely to fail a domain than were
singletons. So, when the researchers compensated for the greater
percentage of twins in the ART group than in the non-treatment group (34
percent vs. 19 percent), they found no significant difference between
the ART group and the non-treatment group in failing any of the 5
Similarly, the researchers found no differences in the percentage of
singleton (single born) children in the two groups who were referred for
evaluation by developmental specialists (21.2 percent vs. 20.7
percent). Of the children diagnosed with a disability at 3-4 years old,
no significant difference was found between the treatment and
non-treatment groups: 13 percent, compared to 18 percent.
Because it is not always possible to diagnose some forms of
developmental disability by 3 years of age, the study authors will
continue to evaluate the children periodically until they reach 8 years
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