Do IVF Babies Grow Up to be Healthy?

Although 1.5% of all babies now born in the United States are conceived via in vitro fertilization, we have to remember that this is still fairly new technology.  The first IVF baby was born in 1978, so children conceived via IVF are still relatively young.  Given this, we are just now finding out how IVF children are fairing as adults.  A new study from Israel is giving us more information about the health of IVF children when they grow up.

The study examined the general health, mental health, and cognitive ability of 253 IVF adolescents compared to 253 naturally-conceived adolescents.  The two groups were matched according to gender, birth year, and the high school they attended.  Many health factors were examined, including blood pressure, diabetes, renal disease, obesity, thyroid disorders, gastrointestinal disorders, asthma, anxiety disorders, and migraine headaches.  The researchers also looked at cognitive function by comparing IQ testing.

So many different health factors could be compared between these adolescents because all teenagers in Israel undergo a rigorous pre-draft evaluation for mandatory military service.  Also, IVF is free in Israel, so socioeconomic status doesn’t bias the results.

Overall, no large differences were found between the two groups.  Some small differences included:

  • IVF adolescents had a lower rate of discharge from military service for health reasons compared to the control group.
  • IVF adolescents scored slightly higher in cognitive function.
  • IVF adolescents had more doctor’s appointments during their service than naturally-conceived adolescents.

It’s unclear why IVF adolescents had more doctors appointments, but we could speculate that these children were raised in families who more regularly sought medical attention.  That’s pure speculation though.  The reason for the increased number of doctors visits wasn’t examined in the study.  Regardless of the number of doctor’s appointments though, IVF adolescents had no more health issues than naturally-conceived adolescents.

The take home message of this study is that children conceived through IVF seem to have no long term side effects from the treatment. They seem to fair just as well as naturally-conceived children.  For patients who are worried about the long term implications of IVF, this is great news.


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