IVF babies do not have lower cognitive skills than naturally conceived children

Researchers analysed data of hundreds of UK children who had been born through IVF or ICSI (when the man has a low sperm count), testing the same groups of children every few years up to the age of 11. They found a positive association between artificial conception and cognitive development when a child was between the ages of three and five.

The study published in the journal, Human Reproduction, also shows that parents who undergo such treatments are generally older, more educated and have a higher socio-economic status than parents who had naturally conceived children. Artificially conceived babies are more likely to be part of a multiple birth or have low birth weight, however, this study finds their family backgrounds ‘override’ the possible negative effects to health that could lessen cognitive ability. The findings are significant given previous studies show a mixed picture, with some research suggesting assisted reproductive treatments can harm a child’s cognitive abilities.

Researchers Professor Melinda Mills and doctoral student Anna Barbuscia, from the University of Oxford’s Department of Sociology and Nuffield College, used data from the UK Millennium Cohort Study, a nationally representative group of 18,552 families. They analysed a sample of babies born in 2000-1 who were resident in the UK at nine months, using data from the Department of Social Security Child Benefit Registers.

Out of 15,281 artificially conceived children born in 2000-1, 8,298 were followed up for cognitive ability tests in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2012. Out of 15,218 children born in 2000-2001, who were followed up for cognitive ability tests in 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2012, 214 were conceived artificially through IVF or ICSI. Standardised tests (British Ability Scales) were used at each stage to assess the children’s vocabulary skills (at three and five); reading at seven, and use of verbs at…

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