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Test-Tube Kids Are OK

Boy (5-7) in white coat holding test tube, smiling, portrait
Photograph by ThinkStock

Thanks to medical science, we have more ways than ever to conceive babies. But did you ever wonder whether artificial interventions have long-term effects on the children who owe their existence to them? A new study published today in the British Medical Journal has some answers, Eurekalert reports.

Researchers at Aarhus University and Aarus University Hospital in Denmark decided to assess the risk of mental illness in artificially versus naturally conceived children. They compared kids up to age 17 years who fell into three different categories: naturally conceived those whose mothers who received only medical treatment (such as hormone stimulation to promote ovulation and egg development) and those who were conceived through the “test-tube” method (where fertilization occurs outside the uterus).

The findings: Test-tube kids are, generally speaking, every bit as healthy in body and mind as their traditionally conceived counterparts. That’s the good news. The bad is that the scientists saw a minor but measurable rise in mental disorders among kids whose mothers had hormone-based fertility treatments. Among the disorders, such kids are more prone to are behavioral issues, ADHD and autism.

“Beyond well-known factors such as age and smoking, it is important that we take a closer look at the differences between women who easily become pregnant and women who find it difficult,” says Dr. Bjørn Bay, one of the fellows who helped conduct the study.

Still, the researchers say, the overall takeaway is that parents who needed some medical magic to conceive shouldn’t fret about it. “Even though the number of children with mental problems is on the increase, the risk is still only very small,” Bay says. “We see no reason to intervene in the treatment and the methods currently being used.”

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