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Fertility Treatment Kids Are Normal

Behavior, Mental Development No Different From Kids Conceived Naturally
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WebMD Health News

Oct. 16, 2002 -- As more couples turn to infertility technology, some doctors and parents have become concerned that these procedures may cause problems in the resulting children. But two new studies add to the growing evidence that those fears are unfounded.

Fertilization is based on survival of the fittest. Only one sperm -- theoretically the strongest and fastest -- fertilizes the egg. This occurs with both natural fertilization and in vitro fertilization (IVF), in which several eggs and millions of sperm are mixed together and fertilization allowed to run its course. But in one infertility treatment, known as intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), sperm is injected directly into the egg.

Bypassing this part of the fertilization process has raised concerns among some that the children produced from ICSI may have more developmental or genetic problems after birth.

In a study from Cornell University, researchers found no developmental differences among a group of 3-year-olds conceived through IVF alone or through IVF plus ICSI. In an Australian study, no behavioral differences were seen between 5-year-olds conceived through assisted reproduction and 5-year-olds conceived naturally.

Both research teams reported their results this week at the 58th annual meeting of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) in Seattle.

"There was a great deal of concern early on about ICSI, but the more data we have, the more comfortable we are with the procedure," reproductive endocrinologist Robert Visscher, MD, tells WebMD. Visscher is a former executive director of ASRM.

It has been 24 years since the first "test tube" baby was born, and since then more than 1 million children have been conceived using assisted reproduction techniques. Study after study has shown that babies born through standard IVF procedures develop normally, and many of those children are now reaching young adulthood.

ICSI is a relatively new procedure used in conjunction with IVF in many couples who have trouble conceiving due to insufficient or poor-quality sperm. A single sperm is selected for implantation into an egg, and the fertilized egg is then implanted into the woman.

In the Cornell study, researchers used parental questionnaires to assess psychological and physical development in 3-year-olds conceived through ICSI and standard IVF. They found that both groups of children were developing normally.

"There were developmental issues, but they fell within the expected range of those seen in the general population," lead researcher Queenie Neri tells WebMD. "This study indicates that these kids are doing fine, but I think they should continue to be assessed as they get older."

Researchers from the University of Sydney also used questionnaires to compare almost 100 5-year-olds conceived through ICSI with 80 conceived through traditional IVF and 113 conceived naturally. No differences were seen in the behavior and development of the children, regardless of how they were conceived.

Mothers of children conceived through assisted reproduction were found to be more protective than other mothers, but this difference in attitude did not appear to significantly affect their children. The researchers suggest that this heightened sensitivity toward the children may be due to the unique circumstances in which they were conceived. -->

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