Infertility treatments appear to have no effect on developmental delays in children through 3 years of age, results from a prospective cohort study indicate.
There still may be some risk, however, since it is not possible to diagnose some forms of developmental disability by age 3.
Still, the results may help quell some of the concern surrounding conception after infertility treatment, as the practice continues to grow in the United States.
The Upstate KIDS study enrolled infants born between 2008 and 2010 in New York state (excluding New York City) whose parents completed developmental screenings through 36 months of age. A total of 5841 children were included in the analysis, of which 1830 were conceived via infertility treatment and 2074 were twins. The study included mothers who underwent assisted reproductive technology (ART), including in vitro fertilization, frozen embryo transfer, assisted hatching, gamete intrafallopian transfer, and zygote intrafallopian transfer, as well as ovulation induction and intrauterine insemination.
Parents completed the Ages and Stages Questionnaires at 4, 8, 12, 18, 24, 30, and 36 months, which measure five developmental domains: fine motor, gross motor, communication, personal-social functioning, and problem-solving ability.
In total, 1422 mothers underwent infertility treatment, which was found to not be associated with risk of children failing any of the developmental domains (aOR, 1.33; 95% CI, 0.94-1.89). ART was associated with an increased risk of failing any developmental domain but only when singletons and twins were evaluated together (aOR, 1.81; 95% CI, 1.21-2.72). When stratified for plurality, neither ovulation induction/intrauterine insemination (aOR, 1.00; 95% CI, 0.57-1.77 for singletons and aOR, 1.30; 95% CI, 0.76-2.21 for twins) or ART (aOR, 1.38; 95% CI, 0.78-2.43 for singletons and aOR, 1.58; 95% CI, 0.94-2.65 for twins) were significantly associated with failing any developmental domain.
Similarly, researchers found no significant difference between singletons in the treatment vs non-treatment group who were referred for evaluation by a developmental specialist (21.2% vs 20.7%), or those who were diagnosed with a disability by age 3 to 4 years (13% vs 18%).
“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, PhD, 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.”
- Yeung EH, Sundaram R, Bell EM, et al. Examining infertility treatment and early childhood development in the Upstate KIDS Study. JAMA Pediatr. 2015; doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2015.4164.
- NIH News Release. Infertility Treatments do not appear to contribute to developmental delays in children. Published January 4, 2016. Accessed January 4, 2016. http://www.nih.gov/news-events/news-releases/infertility-treatments-do-not-appear-contribute-developmental-delays-children