Researchers Find Link Between Hormone Fertility Treatments and Mental Health in Children
Natural Conception vs. Fertility Treatments
The research comes from the collaboration between three universities in Denmark. Scientists in Denmark are particular interested in studying the effects of fertility treatments because more children there are born as a result of treatments than in any other country. Nearly 10 percent of Danish children conceived each year are the result of some type of fertility treatment. The researchers looked at the children of three different types of conception:
- Natural conception. These children were conceived naturally and their mothers used no fertility treatments whatsoever to get pregnant.
- Hormone treatment. Some women used hormone therapy to stimulate the production and development of eggs in their ovaries. They also were inseminated after eggs were produced through hormone therapy.
- In vitro fertilization (IVF). Women who received IVF therapy to conceive had eggs removed from their ovaries. The eggs were then fertilized by sperm in a lab and the resulting embryos were implanted in the uterus. Women receiving IVF also take fertility drugs.
Hormones and Mental Health
The Danish authors of the study compared the children of women who fell into one of the three conception groups. They found that the children who were conceived through IVF therapy were no more likely to have mental illnesses or behavioral disorders than the children who came about by natural conception.
The children whose mothers used hormone therapy, on the other hand, were more likely to have a disorder. Especially prevalent in these children as compared to the other groups were ADHD, autism, and other types of behavioral disorders. To be sure there were no other factors accounting for the increased risk of the disorders, the researchers ruled out the age, education, medical history, and the level of smoking and drinking of the mothers. Only the method of conception was considered.
Some of the women receiving hormone therapy also took fertility drugs. The researchers were able to rule out fertility drugs as the culprit, however, as the IVF children were not at increased risk for mental health problems. The conclusion is that the hormones are the cause of the greater likelihood of mental illness and behavioral issues in children.
The Consequences of the Study
The researchers found out an interesting piece of information about using hormones to conceive. However, they also emphasize that even with the increased risk for mental illness with this type of therapy the overall risk is still very low. They do not caution women against using hormone therapy to conceive, and point out that the vast majority of babies develop normally, regardless of the manner of conception.
The researchers do want to know more about the differences between women who get pregnant easily and those who do not and this latest finding is an important one from that perspective. Any information about conception and fertility practices and how they affect children can only help mothers and their babies. Furthermore, knowing yet one more factor in the development of disorders like autism and ADHD can help researchers to understand them better. The more we know about these disorders, the easier it will be to learn how to treat them, and in the future, maybe even prevent them entirely.