Children conceived through medically assisted reproductive treatments, such as IVF, artificial insemination or ovulation induction, appear to perform better in school than those born by natural fertilization, according to a new study.
The research, conducted by University College London in collaboration with Finland’s University of Helsinki, also found that although IVF children did better in school, they were more prone to anxiety and depression in their teens.
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Published in the European Journal of Population, the research involves analyzing the records of more than 280,000 children born over a five-year period and tracing them as they grew up. The scientists also studied the educational outcomes and mental health of those born by medically assisted reproduction (MAR).
The team also found that teens conceived by MAR were less likely to leave school and had a lower risk of being unemployed or leaving home early compared to children conceived naturally.
“What we see here is mostly reassuring; “Children conceived by medically assisted reproduction generally do better and are in fact no longer harmed in terms of mental health outcomes,” said co-author dr. Alice Goisis at UCL’s Center for Longitudinal Studies said in a university statement.
The observational study is presumably the first to examine the correlations between conception methods, mental health, and well-being later in life.
“The fact that we observe an increased risk of mental health disorders once we take family characteristics into account may be a cause for concern and deserves further attention in future research,” she added.
The researchers said in a statement that the correlation for mental health was only observed when social demographics were taken into account, and that there was no evidence to suggest that the MAR treatment itself was the source of association for mental health.
“We explicitly focus on the social demographics of families who have become pregnant through medically assisted reproduction – and our findings underscore the importance of integrating this perspective into medically assisted reproduction studies and its consequences,” he said. the statement.
The research involves examining administrative records of more than 280,000 Finnish children born between 1995 and 2000. They compared the educational and mental health outcomes among teens between the ages of 16 and 18 who were naturally conceived (266,925) and MAR (13,757).
The authors noted that MAR children are more likely to come from better-off families that can provide children with resources (financial, time, and emotional) that benefit their educational outcomes. However, they may also suggest that problems getting pregnant could expose parents to mental health issues, which could have affected their children by putting them at greater risk of psychological distress.
“While we do not have the data to explain why those born by medically assisted reproduction have a slightly higher risk of mental health disorders, we believe that this may be due to different mechanisms,” lead author Dr. Hanna Remes of the University of Helsinki said.
“The fact that MAR-born children tend to be the firstborn – about 60 percent of the children in the study – explained some of the excess risks. It is also possible that as a result of the process they went through, parents of children conceived by IVF, for example, may have been exposed to mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety, which in turn put the children themselves at a higher level. risk of having mental health problems. ”
Since the oldest child conceived by IVF treatment is now 43 years old, the researchers noted that this area of study is still relatively new.
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