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IVF children do better in school but are more prone to this

Researchers used administrative records on 280,682 Finnish children born between 1995 and 2000.

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Asian Pregnant woman stay at home with husband. Love couple with baby x-ray.
The oldest child conceived by IVF is now 43, this area of research is relatively new and underexplored. (Perfect Angle Images/Shutterstock)

By Jim Leffman via SWNS

Children born using IVF perform better at school than those naturally conceived but are more prone to anxiety and depression in their teens, a new study shows.

Scientists from University College London looked at the records of more than 280,000 kids born over five years and then tracked them as they grew up.

They then studied the educational outcomes and mental health of those born as a result of Medically Assisted Reproduction (MAR) such as IVF treatment, artificial insemination and ovulation induction.

The study is thought to be the first to examine links between the method of conception and mental health and wellbeing in later life as previous studies have only looked at the early years.

The team found that adolescents conceived by MAR performed better in school, were less likely to drop out and were at a lower risk of not being in education or employment or leaving home early compared to naturally conceived adolescents.

However, these differences all but disappeared when the socioeconomic background was taken into account which shows how family background could explain it.

Despite this, they found those conceived through MAR were at an increased risk of developing a mental disorder, particularly anxiety or depression.

Asian pregnant woman with big belly. Mother day and International women day. Mom relaxing with husband at home
The stress of conceiving via MAR may expose parents to mental health issues and this might impact those children.
(Perfect Angle Images/Shutterstock)

The researchers used administrative records on 280,682 Finnish children born between 1995 and 2000.

They compared a range of educational and mental health outcomes among adolescents aged between 16 and 18 who were conceived naturally (266,925) and through MAR (13,757).

Around 10 percent of MAR-conceived adolescents compared to nine percent of naturally conceived adolescents received a mental health diagnosis between ages 16-18.

Although small, the findings based on several indicators of mental health were consistent, according to the study published in the European Journal of Population.

This increased risk was also present when comparing adolescents conceived through MAR with their naturally conceived siblings, a finding that researchers say adds robustness to the study, as the team was able to control for family characteristics that are otherwise unobserved.

Co-author Dr. Alice Goisis, at UCL's Centre for Longitudinal Studies, said: “What we’re seeing here is mostly reassuring; children conceived through medically assisted reproduction do better overall and are in fact not more disadvantaged in terms of mental health outcomes.

"However, the fact that we observe an increased risk of mental health disorders once we account for family characteristics could be a cause for concern.

“We explicitly put a lot of focus on the social demographics of families who conceived through medically assisted reproduction and our findings underscore the importance of integrating this perspective in studies of medically assisted reproduction and its consequences."

The authors note that MAR children are more likely to come from better off families who may provide children with resources that benefit their educational outcomes.

However, they also think the stress of conceiving via MAR may expose parents to mental health issues and this might impact those children.

Lead author, Dr. Hanna Remes at the University of Helsinki, said: “Whilst we don’t have the data to explain why those born by medically assisted reproduction are at a higher risk of mental health disorders, we believe that this may be due to different mechanisms.

“The fact that MAR-conceived children tend to be the first-born, around 60 percent of the children in the study, explained some of the excess risks.

"It is also possible that because 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 may, in turn, have put the children themselves at higher risk of having mental health problems.

“Alternatively, they may be more apprehensive about their child’s welfare and more likely to make sure their child attends hospital or visits the doctor and therefore these children may be more likely to get a diagnosis for certain conditions.”

The researchers note that, as the oldest child conceived by IVF is now 43, this area of research is relatively new and underexplored.

They stress that, given the rise in the number of children being conceived via MAR for various reasons, it is vital that we understand the longer-term consequences on children and young people.

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