Study debunks concerns about fertility treatment, children’s development

Differences in the growth weight, and body fat levels of children conceived through fertility treatment are small and no longer apparent by late adolescence, finds new research. The University of Bristol (UK)-led study, published in JAMA Network Open, sought to address concerns around whether fertility treatment is associated with growth, weight and body fat from infancy to early adulthood.

The study, led by an international research group from the Assisted Reproductive Technology and Future Health (ART-Health) Cohort Collaboration, assessed whether conception by ART, which mostly involves IVF, was associated with growth, weight and body fat from infancy to early adulthood.

Using data on 158,000 European, Asian-Pacific, and Canadian children conceived by ART, the data show those conceived using ART were on average shorter, lighter and thinner from infancy up to early adolescence compared with their naturally conceived peers. However, the differences were small across all ages and reduced with older age.

Dr Ahmed Elhakeem, Senior Research Associate in Epidemiology in Bristol Medical School: Population Health Sciences (PHS) at the University of Bristol, and lead study author, said, “This is important work. Over the last three decades conception by ART has increased. In the UK just over one in 30 children have been conceived by ART, so we would expect on average one child in each primary school class to have been conceived this way. Parents and their children conceived by ART can be reassured that this might mean they are a little bit smaller and lighter from infancy to adolescence, but these differences are unlikely to have any health implications.”

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