Two studies published in Pediatrics have found that women using assisted reproductive technology (“ART”), including IVF, give birth to children with a higher risk of developmental disorders and cancer. The first study was a cancer study that combed through all birth records in Norway from 1984 to 2011. The birth records were compared to the cancer registry data. The researchers concluded that ART-conceived children had a 67% higher risk of leukemia. However, the overall risk of cancer was not significantly greater for ART children. The second study focused on developmental disabilities in children. Researchers analyzed the birth records of more than 330,000 children and found that ART children had a 27% higher chance of being referred to Early Intervention, a program designed to help disabled infants and toddlers. Since ART babies are more likely to be premature, the researchers took into consideration the link between preterm babies and developmental disabilities and concluded that premature births were not the primary cause of ART children being referred to Early Intervention.
Because the studies are preliminary, the authors are not suggesting that women avoid IVF and other reproductive technology procedures. There can be other contributable factors that need to be considered, such as advanced maternal age, hereditary genetic diseases and reproductive health of women seeking reproductive treatments. The lead author on the developmental disability study, Dr. Hafsatou Diop, acknowledges that there are risk factors undergoing IVF, but states that, no matter how children are conceived, women can take certain measures in reducing the risk of pregnancy complications by avoiding smoking and drinking, maintaining good health and eliminating stress. Dr. Diop further explained: “While there is an increased risk, we don’t necessarily think that it is enough to influence one’s decision about whether or not to proceed with ART.”