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In Vitro Fertilization Not Likely To Increase ASD Risk

By Mark N. Ziats on February 1, 2013


Background: Couples who cannot conceive children naturally may choose in vitro fertilization (IVF), where sperm fertilize an egg outside the body and doctors implant viable embryos into the woman. While some speculate that IVF conception may associate with development of Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), rigorous studies investigating the link are lacking.


What’s new: In a new study published in the journal Human Reproduction, researchers investigated the link between IVF and ASD using a Finnish registry with birth records of 20,000 children followed up to age 16.  In the registry, approximately 1.51% of the children who eventually developed ASD or a related syndrome (e.g. Asperger’s) were conceived by IVF.  This was not significantly increased from the 1.38% of children who were conceived via IVF but did not go on to develop ASD, after controlling for age, sex, place of birth, socioeconomic status, mother’s age, and birth number.


Why it’s important: A previous 2011 study in Denmark investigating the association between assisted conception and autism found no significant correlation between IVF and the later development of autism. This latest report supports those findings, and while additional studies are needed to confirm these results, the current evidence suggests that IVF treatments are not likely to increase ASD risk.

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