Are IVF Babies Healthy When They Grow up?

While medical technology is improving rapidly, there are still many different questions about in vitro fertilization (IVF), and how the children born from IVF grow up. For the longest time, the question of how these children will grow up, and whether or not they will be healthy, has been physically impossible to answer. After all, the very first IVF baby was born in 1978. This is still fairly young, especially considering that the average human lifespan is slowly beginning to increase. However, with years and years of close monitoring and studying, there is now new information that there wasn’t before. A study in Israel has decided to look at the lives of children who were born through IVF. This includes looking at the medical and mental health of the children in addition to the cognitive abilities. For many people who were concerned about IVF, these were the most important areas. In situations such as this, hearing no news is some of the best news, and that is how this study has progressed.

What Makes This Study in Particular Special?

Surely there are many people with the same questions, so what sets this study from Israel apart from the rest? No matter if you are looking at IVF treatment in Bangkok or if you are looking at it in another area of the world, this is information you will definitely need to know. Israel is in a particularly interesting position for this study, as this study will follow people who are enlisted in the military. Military service, which is mandatory, requires that everyone go through the scrutinizing eye of pre-draft evaluations for both mental and physical health to ensure that they are fit for the military. This means two things for the study: that there will be no participation bias, and that the study is going to be very precise. In addition to this, IVF treatment is free in Israel, so there will also be no bias in the socioeconomics of the study either.

As for the specifics of the study itself, all of the 253 adolescents were born from a single IVF center between the years of 1982 and 1993. At the time of the study, their ages were between 16 and 20. These children were compared with a very similar group of young adults that were naturally conceived. Out of the IVF children, 158 of them were singletons and the remaining 95 were part of multiple deliveries. Now that you know about the specifics of this case and why it is important, you can now learn about what the case was tracking and its results.

What Was Tracked in the Study?

There were many, many factors that had to be evaluated for this study and for the military service. On the side of physical health, this study tracked blood pressure, diabetes, renal disease, obesity, thyroid disorders, gastrointestinal (GI) disorders, asthma, height, and migraines. On the mental side of things, the study tracked anxiety disorders and gave all the participants IQ tests to gauge cognitive function. On top of all this, all medical appointments that were made during military service were recorded. This is quite a bit of comprehensive information tracked, which means that this is all the more information that people who are interested, but concerned, about IVF will want to know.

What Were the Results?

To put it briefly, there were no meaningful differences between the group of IVF children and the group of naturally conceived children. That is to say that there were a few minor differences. For the differences that are in favor of IVF treatment, the adolescents who were IVF-conceived were discharged from the military for health reasons less than the control group, and on the times that they were discharged, it was due to personality and behavioral issues rather than serious medical problems. This means that, according to this study, IVF children generally have better physical health. The IVF children also scored a little bit higher in the cognitive function area, which means that they are just as intellectually capable, if not even more so, than their naturally conceived counterparts.

One of the slightly more negative differences, although it is not major, is that the children who were conceived through IVF multiples were quite a bit thinner on average compared to their singleton counterparts and the control group. This was not entirely surprising for some scientists, but it is still something that you would want to note if you are considering any type of assisted reproductive technology (ART).

There is another bit of data that can be tough to interpret. The ones who were conceived through IVF visited the doctor and made more appointments for the doctor during their service than the others. What makes this hard to interpret is their reasons why. There is the possibility that they really did have more medical issues than the other young adults, but there is also the possibility that these children might have simply been brought up in families who tend to visit the doctor for more minor concerns. The ones who did the study didn’t further investigate the reasons why, simply that it happened, which means it is up to you to interpret what you think this data implies.

A Few Things to Note

As with all studies, there are limitations, especially with studies that focus on how people fare over the years. The people in this study were all born from one IVF center, which means that there is no accounting for a different treatment technique that could be present in other centers. It also only looks at people who were born in the 1980 to 1990s, when technology was not as advanced today. Because these studies, quite literally, take years to complete, it can be difficult to get information that is relevant to the same year. The last thing to note, while somewhat depressing, is important. This study began looking at people who were already young adults, which means that it is not accounting for complications in pregnancies, deliveries, and perinatal mortalities.

With that being said, you can take away the information that, in a condition where health is regularly followed up on, a child who is born through IVF will be just as healthy as someone who was naturally conceived. Some forms of IVF treatment might affect your child’s weight, and that is something to take note of, but for the most part, the IVF children performed on par with the rest of the group. This means that you can rest assured knowing that there is a chance that your IVF child can also live a healthy adult life.


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