For years, the miraculous advances of fertility treatments and reproductive technology have been tainted by a distinctly increased risk of neurological problems and birth defects. But new research sheds an important light on where exactly the risk for infertile couples come from. Mainly, it might not be the fertility treatment, like IVF, that increases the risk for complications. Your need for fertility treatments, the very fact that you’re infertile, might increase your chance for problems.
Researcher Mijna Hadders-Algra, of the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, conducted a relatively small study looking at 206 children born to couples that took a long time to conceive. A little more than half of the children were born with the help of reproductive technology, but a full 87 kids were still born through natural reproductive methods.
At age two, the children were tested for neurological issues. According to the findings, taking a longer time to get pregnant was linked with a 30% increase in mild neurological problems. Notably, it was the length of time it took to get that indicated an increased risk for problems, but not the method through which pregnancy was conceived.
It’s not that your expensive, fancy schmancy fertilty specialist is putting you at risk for birth defects, it’s that your body was predisposed to have issues and therefore takes longer to get pregnant.
As a woman who suffered through infertility for years, I’m not sure if this makes anyone trying to conceive actually feel better. You don’t have to worry that your fertility treatments are putting your possible little one at risk. But you do have to consider that your body is simply broken and not meant to produce a healthy baby. Though to be fair, most infertile women already feel that pressure and concern.
While this research is an important first step, its sample size was very small. Researchers will need to recreate the study on a larger scale to have conclusive evidence. But it still represents an interesting advancement in the continued study of fertility treatments and their effects.