In Vitro Could Cause Mental Retardation

A new study nixes any correlation between in vitro fertilization treatments and autism but shows that IVF could lead to intellectual disabilities and mental retardation.

Pregnant woman's belly with baby shoes

The study

The findings of a study regarding the link (or lack thereof) between IVF and autism has recently been published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study found no link between in vitro fertilization and autism. However, the research did find a slight increase in risk for mental retardation or intellectual disabilities.

The IVF-mental retardation link

The study is based on research of the birth records of 2.5 million children born in Sweden between 1982 and 2007. The children born after IVF treatments had an 18 percent higher risk of mental retardation relative to those who were not. However, just more than 1 percent of the children born after an IVF procedure had intellectual disabilities. When researchers focused on just single births, the risk disappeared.

Of the study's findings, co-author Sven Sandin, a researcher with King's College in London, stated, "Autism and intellectual disability remain a rare outcome, and most children born following IVF will be perfectly healthy."

The type of fertilization treatments also became a factor in the findings: Certain treatments used to specifically target male factor infertility, particularly intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI), carried higher risks. However, the overall risk of children being born with intellectual disabilities, defined as an IQ under 70, was rather small. The risk of mental retardation as a result of male-focused fertility interventions was under 2 percent.

Though the study was conducted in Sweden, experts feel the results of the findings could be carried over to the U.S. since techniques and equipment are very similar in the two countries. According to, experts seems to agree that IVF is safe but that more research is indeed needed.

More on IVF

Stress and success of IVF
Babies conceived via IVF do as well as those conceived by natural methods
Dietary supplements boosts IVF hopes


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