According to new research, differences in the development, weight, and body fat levels of children produced through reproductive therapy are minor and disappear by late adolescence. The study attempted to answer concerns about the effects of reproductive therapy on growth, weight, and body fat from infancy through early adulthood.
Since the first in vitro fertilisation (IVF) birth, concerns have been raised concerning the hazards to infants created in this manner. While prior research has linked assisted reproductive technology (ART) to an increased risk of low birthweight and premature birth, less is known regarding long-term development and weight gain.
The study, coordinated by an international research team from the Assisted Reproductive Technology and Future Health (ART-Health) Cohort Collaboration, looked at whether conception by ART, which mostly involves IVF, was linked to growth, weight, and body fat from infancy to early adulthood.
The data sample comprised 8,600 children from Bristol’s Children of the 90s research, a world-leading health study located in Bristol that has followed 14,000 pregnant women and their kids since 1991 and used data on 158,000 European, Asian-Pacific, and Canadian children conceived through ART.
According to the team’s results, children created with ART were shorter, lighter, and thinner on average from infancy to early adolescence when compared to their normally conceived contemporaries. However, the disparities were minor across all groups and diminished with age.
Dr Ahmed Elhakeem, Senior Research Associate in Epidemiology in Bristol Medical School: Population Health Sciences (PHS) at the University of Bristol, and lead study author, said: “This is important work. Over the last three decades conception by ART has increased. In the UK just over one in 30 children have been conceived by ART, so we would expect on average one child in each primary school class to have been conceived this way. Since the first birth of a child by IVF, concerns have been raised about the risks to the children conceived.
“Parents and their children conceived by ART can be reassured that this might mean they are a little bit smaller and lighter from infancy to adolescence, but these differences are unlikely to have any health implications. We acknowledge it is important that as more people conceived by ART become adults, we continue to explore any potential health risks at older age.”
Deborah Lawlor, Professor of Epidemiology, MRC Investigator and British Heart Foundation Chair and senior author from Bristol Medical School PHS, added: “This important research is only possible through large scale international collaboration and longitudinal health studies, where participants contribute health data throughout their entire lives. We are particularly grateful to the European Research Council and Horizon 2020 for making this possible and to all of the study participants and researchers.”
Peter Thompson, Chief Executive, The Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), said: “Around 1 in 7 couples have difficulty conceiving in the UK which leads to around 53,000 patients a year having fertility treatment (IVF or Donor Insemination). The findings from this study will come as a welcome relief to these patients who begin treatment in the hope of one day having healthy children of their own.
“Health outcomes in children conceived using Assisted Reproductive Technology is a high priority for the HFEA and we monitor the latest research and provide information for patients and professionals. Anyone considering fertility treatment can access this, and other high-quality impartial information on fertility treatments and UK licenced clinics at www.hfea.gov.uk.”
Larger sample sizes at later ages are increasingly required in studies. Other outcomes, like as cardiometabolic risk factors after ART, deserve more exploration. The study’s cooperative network will assist future research into health outcomes following ART.