Although in-vitro fertilization (IVF) is associated with a higher risk of preterm birth, researchers report no neuropsychological side effects from early birth at three years of age. According to a study published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, the only neuropsychological differentiations were noted between female and male offspring and that differentiation is common across all types of conception.

Almost 400 children participated in the study. One hundred five children were conceived with IVF and the remaining children were conceived naturally. Standardized performance tests were used to determine IQ, neuropsychological function, attention, perception, dexterity, learning, and memory, among other tests. The group of IVF children was more likely to be born to mothers of higher age – a contributing factor, among others, taken into consideration before final analysis was made. Mean gestational ages were 34.82 weeks and 35.03 weeks for IVF and non-IVF groups, respectively. Weight at birth, length of hospital stay and maternal education were all comparable.

No differences were found between the IVF group and naturally-conceived groups of children. Researchers did recognize an advantage in dexterity, reasoning, copying and inhibitory capacity among female offspring, but the advantage was present in both groups.

Conclusion: Parents can rest assured that IVF conception does not affect neuropsychological outcomes in children to age three. Researchers suggest slight impairments may be found in older children as children reach elementary school, but the impairments would be subtle. The study is on-going, so additional information on future neuropsychological outcomes will be reported at a later date. The study is not able to report on infants born prior to the 34th week of gestation; an area researchers believe is in need of additional research. Researchers also noted additional studies that include a group of non-IVF conceived through other means of assisted reproductive technology (ART) should be completed.

Source: Katherine A. Berry, MEd, Ida Sue Baron, Ph.D., Brandi A. Weiss, Ph.D., Robin Baker, MD, Margot D. Ahronovich, MD, Fern R. Litman, MD. In vitro fertilization and late preterm preschoolers' neuropsychological outcomes: the PETIT study. American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology. Volume 209, Issue 4, Pages 356.e1-356.e6, October 2013. Doi:10.1016/j.ajog.2013.06.041.