April 14, 2024

IVF vs natural conception: babies have same cognitive ability, says study

Environmental factors may cancel out the detrimental health effects of IVF conception.

A new study by researchers from the University of Oxford suggests that IVF babies have the same cognitive ability as naturally-conceived children.

Sociology Professor Melinda Mills and doctoral student Anna Barbuscia say that, despite the higher rates of multiple births or adverse health outcomes among IVF babies, the wealth, education and age of IVF parents ‘cancels out’ any potentially detrimental aspects of IVF-conception.

Mills and Barbuscia studied data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, a nationally representative group of 18,552 families. Over 12,000 children were part of the study (150-180 of whom were artificially conceived), with cognitive ability tests performed at 3, 5, 7 and 11 years.

The researchers found that, in early years, the IVF-conceived children actually scored higher on the tests, with the disparity narrowing in later years of development.

Specifically, the study states that “at age 3 and 5 years, children conceived with the aid of ART have higher verbal cognitive abilities than NC children (P < 0.001) but this consistently decreases over time and diminishes by age 11 years”.

“The findings suggest that the positive effect of the family background of children conceived through artificial reproduction techniques “overrides” the risks of related poor health impairing their cognitive ability,” Melinda Mills said.

To date, results on the long-term effects of IVF conception on children have been mixed. Several studies reported an increased risk of damage to their behavioural, social, emotional and cognitive development, as well as mental disorders or physical problems such as low birthweight and premature delivery. A number of systematic reviews suggested, however, that there were no developmental differences once the baby was a few weeks old.

IVF v natural-conception: babies have same cognitive ability, says new study
Xavier Symons
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assisted reproduction