• Tue, Mar 26 2013

IVF Might Not Lead To Neurological Problems — It’s Just Your Broken Reproductive System

infertilityFor 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.

(Photo: jcjgphotography/Shutterstock)

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  • Anonymous

    Maybe this is too blunt, but duh. Why do people feel that they are smarter than nature, or God, or whatever you choose to call it? If you go into labor at 20 weeks with a terribly impaired fetus, that is not an opportunity for medicine to defeat nature. It’s your body telling you something went wrong and you shouldn’t sentence your poor child to months of misery she is unlikely to survive. Similarly, if you try for years to conceive and can’t, then shouldn’t you take that as your body telling you that something is wrong and you’re not meant for this? No one would take such extraordinary measures if an animal was unable to conceive; they would simply conclude that the animal was unable for a reason. Why do people feel the need to get what they want no matter the cost?

    • Ordinaryperson

      Yep, that’s pretty blunt. But I think people who want to have babies feel a little worse about not being able to have babies than an animal would, which is why your comment also comes across pretty mean. I mean if, say, cats were that concerned about their reproduction, then shouldn’t we be doing something about the widespread and systemic practice of forced sterilization within their domestic (and even sometimes feral) population? Even Bob Barker’s in on it!

    • Anonymous

      Isn’t it meaner to persist in selfishly wasting resources in order to conceive a child that will most likely have the same issues that caused you to have a hard time conceiving? I’m sorry that you want to have babies and can’t; life’s like that sometimes. Selfishness isn’t the answer.

    • Ordinaryperson

      Compassion? You might think these people’s feelings are foolish and they should just accept the hand life has dealt them, but it isn’t that simple. The hurt of being unable to have children can run very deep, and your cold logic isn’t going to make it go away.

    • Anonymous

      Isn’t it meaner to persist in selfishly wasting resources in order to conceive a child that will most likely have the same issues that caused you to have a hard time conceiving? I’m sorry that you want to have babies and can’t; life’s like that sometimes. Selfishness isn’t the answer.

    • http://www.facebook.com/RetiredSceneQueen Emmali Lucia

      Because cats can’t say “Hey. Dude, get those scissors away from me. I want babies.”

      I’m sure if animals could talk in people language you would find that they want to reproduce and have happy healthy children.

    • lea

      You could apply the same logic to any medical treatment though.

      If your body starts to shut down from cancer, surely that is a sign that you shouldn’t survive so why sentence yourself to months and months of treatment that may not work.

      You caught a bacterial infection and it has spread, surely that is a sign that your immune system is impaired. Your body is telling you something is wrong and you are not meant for this.

      Etc etc….

    • Anonymous

      Except that if I choose to treat myself for a bacterial infection, that is prolonging and improving my already existing life, not passing on obviously defective genetic material to a new generation. And as far as cancer goes, if you’re to the point where your body is shutting down, then yes, you should accept that it’s over and not waste precious medical resources tormenting yourself and your family. Many people spend their last months in agony directly related to their treatment when they could instead accept that death is inevitable and spend that time with the people they love with the highest quality of life possible.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100003329844037 Tammy Gaudreault

      “If your body starts to shut down from cancer, surely that is a sign that you shouldn’t survive so why sentence yourself to months and months of treatment that may not work.” Best response ever. So true. 5 stars!

  • Andrea

    I’m not sure what would be the point of further studies. Let’s say they do a much larger sample and are able to confirm, that yes, if you had trouble conceiving (and regardless of how you ended up having children in the end) your child has a high chance of having neurological issues. What will that do? So now we know for sure? That probably won’t stop anyone from trying anyways. And it puts an even higher burden on the parents (but mostly mom) of guilt. The message being, I am too broken to have children?

    I think a better avenue of research would be to find out exactly what is causing the issues to begin with and then solve that.

    Disclaimer: I did not have fertility issues.

    • SusannahJoy

      This is the first step to finding out what is causing those issues though. It’s heartbreaking, and I agree that it probably just adds to the stress that so many women face, but in general- I’m always for more research, even when it reveals things that we’d rather not know. And it’s important to know whether the defects are being caused by the IVF, or the same thing that made the women more likely to need IVF. If it was the fertility treatments, then they could try to figure out how to make those safer, but since it looks like it may be the women themselves, now we know to focus our studies on that.

    • Andrea

      I guess you are right. It is of course stupid to just not research something because we are afraid of what it will tell us (i.e. cruel results: you are too broken to have children so don’t even try cuz they will be born with problems).

      Still…it seems another kick in the crotch for women dealing with infertility.

  • Tinyfaeri

    The title on this is awful. The research is, while both sad and unsurprising, not a personal attack on people dealing with fertility problems, it’s just a study. The title makes it weirdly personal. I don’t think any woman has ever lost a pregnancy or dealt with fertility-related problems without feeling like she is defective, broken, less of a woman, a science experiment or something else from a whole list of horrible things to think about herself. There are a lot more clinical ways of phrasing a title about this topic that aren’t so…mean. All that title makes me want to say is “dude, fuck you” and not read anything else on this site, and my problems aren’t even the ones being discussed.