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NIH Record - 75th Anniversary - National Institutes of Health

Infertility Treatments Do Not Appear to Contribute to Developmental Delays in Children

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 NIH, 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 lifelong disability.

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 Dr. Edwina Yeung, a population health researcher at 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, N.Y., and CapitalCare Pediatrics in Troy, N.Y. 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. Parents also completed a questionnaire to screen children for developmental disabilities at numerous intervals throughout their children’s first 3 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 developmental assessments. 

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