Fertility Problems Linked to Neurological Development Issues: Study

New research suggests that there is an association between neurological dysfunction in children and the infertility of the parents, indicating that the risk of problems do not actually appear be linked to fertility treatments.  

A study published online March 25 in the Archives of Disease in Children – Fetal Neonatal Edition examined data on 209 children born from couples who had difficulty getting pregnant. Researchers assessed the children at age 2 with a Hempel Examination to determine the extent of any neurological problems.

The researchers from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands found 17 children who showed minor signs of neurological problems, these children were more likely to be born to parents who took the longest amount of time to conceive. The time to get pregnant ranged from a year and a half up to 13 years, with the average time to conceive at just over four years.

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The parents of children who showed no signs of neurological problems took an average of only two years to conceive. The ratio reveals the parents infertility is a major factor involved in the development of neurological issues, not fertility treatments themselves.

Parents who take longer to conceive are 30% more likely to have a child with neurological issues, even after scientists adjust their values to account for the parents age at conception and education.

Overall, only six of the children had severe neurological problems. The other children experienced issues which were minor neurological problems and didn’t affect overall behavior or development, which included movement issues, posture, hand-eye coordination and muscle tone. The neurological problems may, however, make the children more vulnerable later in life to other learning or behavior problems.

Fertility Treatments and Birth Defects

For years scientists have suspected that IVF and other fertility treatments may be the cause for many issues in some babies, including low birth weight, premature birth and problems with brain development.

A study published last year in the journal Fertility and Sterility revealed children conceived through IVF or other fertility treatments were 37 percent more likely to have birth defects. Another study involving fertility treatments suggested that the fertility drug Clomid may increase a mothers risk of having a child with birth defects by nearly 300 percent.

Now scientists are reevaluating these claims and focusing on the infertility issues to begin with, as playing a role in causing neurological problems in children looking to other factors which may contribute to the infertility problems.

The findings of one particular study found couples who had higher levels of toxins in their blood took longer to conceive a child than couples who had lower amounts of toxins. The toxins measured consisted of common pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and perfluorochemicals (PCFs). Other environmental and biological factors may play a significant role in determining the risk.

The findings link poor fertility and a longer time to conception to playing a significant role in the neurological development of children. While many women in the United States are conceiving much later in life, scientists say the prolonged time to pregnancy, and potentially a reduction in risk, can be prevented by reduced maternal age at conception.


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