Children conceived through IVF fertility treatment perform at least as well as their peers, according to a new US study.
Fertility treatments are now thought to account for one per cent of US, and two per cent of UK births. However, there have been concerns that the methods used may affect the long-term development of the children.
A team from the University of Iowa found that children conceived through fertility treatment performed higher on standardised tests compared with their matched peers, suggesting that this had no effect on cognitive development.
The study compared the performance of 423 children from ages eight to 17 that were conceived through fertility treatment, with 372 matched peers using Iowa Tests of Basic Skills and Educational Development, which are widely used throughout the US.
The results of the fertility treatment group were above average, and there was no significant difference between the different types of procedure, such as using frozen or fresh embryos, alternative methods of insemination, or different lengths of embryo culture time.
The study cited factors such as parental level of education, age of the mother at birth, and divorce as possible reasons for the differences between the performance levels.
The researchers were not able to explain why the fertility treatment group performed higher than the control group, although they did offer suggestions such as a higher level of involvement in the upbringing and education of these children by their parents.
They also found no differences between the prevalence of developmental disorders, such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autistic spectrum disorders (ASD) between the fertility treatment and control groups.
Although these match previous findings, this is believed to be one of the largest and well-controlled follow up studies to date. The study has addressed some of the limitations of previous studies and attempts to provide a definitive answer as to whether conception through fertility treatment has any long-term negative effects.
Dr Bradley Van Voorhis, an expert in obstetrics and gynaecology at the University of Iowa and senior author of the paper said in a press release that: 'Our findings are reassuring for clinicians and patients as they suggest that being conceived through IVF does not have any detrimental effects on a child's intelligence or cognitive development'.
This research is published in the Journal of Human Reproduction.