The method of in vitro fertilization is relatively new: the first person born thanks to IVF, Englishwoman Louise Joy Brown, is only 43 years old. So the field of scientific research of test-tube babies is just beginning to develop. At the same time, assisted reproductive technologies are being used more and more, so it is vital for both scientists and potential parents to know how IVF can affect future children.
One of the first studies of this kind belongs to scientists from the University of Helsinki, according to the Daily Mail. They followed 280,000 teenagers born in Finland from 1995 to 2000. When they were 16 or 18 years old, the researchers checked their school performance and looked at their medical records. The results appeared in the European Journal of Population.
It turned out that, compared with children born vaginally, children conceived through IVF had a higher average score (8 vs. 7.7), were less likely to drop out of school (2.4% vs. at home (11% versus 17%).
The researchers note that these differences between the two groups almost vanished when their family circumstances were taken into account: parental wealth, relationship status, and education. This is because, due to the cost of IVF, test-tube babies are more likely to be born into rich families, and their parents invest more time, money, and emotions in the child, which cannot but affect the educational level.
At the same time, children conceived as a result of IVF were more likely to suffer from mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. If by the end of adolescence, 9% of children conceived naturally had a mental diagnosis, then among their peers conceived with the help of technology, there were 10% of such children. In percentage terms, the difference may seem insignificant, but, according to scientists, in reality the difference is significant. The increased risk of mental health problems persisted even when children born through IVF were compared to naturally conceived siblings.
The authors of the study are not yet able to explain this. A possible explanation is that parents of children conceived through IVF may experience anxiety due to problems with conception, and this is reflected in their offspring. On the other hand, such parents may be more concerned about their child's health and see their child more often, which increases the likelihood of diagnosed disorders.