Does IVF Contribute to Developmental Delays in Children?

By Dylan Parker (Griffin-2  Uploaded by Amada44) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia C

The Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development hosted a study and found that children who are conceived through infertility treatments are no more likely to have a developmental delay than children conceived without such treatments. The findings of the study could help to alleviate long held concerns that conception after infertility treatment could impact a developing embryo at a crucial stage and cause a lifelong disability.

Findings of the Study

The authors of the study found there were no differences in the developmental assessment scores of more than 1,800 children who were born to mothers who became pregnant after infertility treatments. Dr. Edwina Yeung, lead study investigator, said, “When we began our study, there was little research on the potential effects of conception via fertility treatments on U.S. children. Our results provide reassurance to the thousands of couples who have relied on these treatments to establish their families.”

Other researchers taking part in the study were from the University of Albany, New York; the New York State Department of Health, and Capital Care Pediatrics in Troy, NY. The Upstate KIDS program held a study and enrolled infants born to women in NY State from 2008 through 2010.

Parents of babies whose birth certificates indicated infertility treatment were invited to enroll their children in these studies. The team also recruited three times as many singleton births not conceived through assisted reproductive techniques. Four months after having a baby, the mothers indicated on a questionnaire the type of infertility treatment they had received.

What Types of Assisted Reproductive Techniques Were Tracked?

Some of the different types of reproductive technology techniques that researchers tracked included the following:

•Intrauterine insemination: this involves placement of sperm directly into a woman’s uterus using a narrow tube.
•Ovulation induction: treatment with drugs used to stimulate ovulation in a woman.
•In vitro fertilization: this involves fertilizing an egg with sperm in a lab dish.
•Zygote intrafallopian transfer: sperm and eggs are mixed before being placed in a woman’s fallopian tube.
•Assisted hatching: this involves placement of a microscopic hole in the zona pellicuda, which is a protein covering a woman’s eggs.
•Frozen embryo transfer: this technique involves implanting an embryo that’s been previously frozen.

The parents participating in the study were also asked to periodically fill out a questionnaire to screen children for developmental disabilities within the first three years of life. The questionnaires were done at 4, 6, 8, 12, 18, 24 and 36 months of age. It covered such things as fine motor skills, gross motor skills, communication, social and personal functioning, and problem solving skills. Overall, children who were conceived using assisted reproduction techniques scored similarly to other children in each of these areas.

Conclusion to the Study:

Of the children that were diagnosed with a disability at 3 or 4 years old, no significant difference was found between those conceived using assisted fertility techniques and those who were not. Because it is not always possible to diagnose some types of developmental disabilities by the age of 3 years old, the authors of the study will keep on researching to evaluate those children until they reach the age of 8 years old.


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