New research has been published in March 2015 making a direct connection between Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).  The studies seem to indicate that traditional in vitro methods are not dangerous compared to some ART procedures.

Assisted Reproductive Technology and Autism Spectrum Disorder

Parents who’ve used ART and may notice some unusual behavior in their toddler, or noticed that their infant doesn’t like to be kissed or held, and won’t make eye contact with his or her parents or others should seek prompt medical evaluation. Early detection can help parents prepare for their child’s autism.

The information below was published by the Centers for Disease Control recently.

Is there increased risk for ASD because of assisted reproductive technology?

  • Overall, children conceived using ART were about two times more likely to be diagnosed with ASD compared to children conceived without using ART.
  • Evidence suggests that for pregnancies conceived with ART, the increased risk for ASD is, in large part, due to the higher likelihood of adverse pregnancy and delivery outcomes. In other words, using ART may lead to factors that are known to put children at risk for ASD, such as being born a twin or multiple (triplets, quadruplets, etc.), being born too early, or being born too small.
  • More research is needed to explore what exactly underlies the observed relationship between ART and ASD.
  • However, these findings suggest that single embryo transfer, where appropriate, may reduce the risk of ASD among children conceived using ART.

Does the ART procedure affect the relationship between ART and ASD?

  • Among children conceived using ART, about 0.8% of those born as singletons (only one baby carried during the pregnancy) and about 1.2% of those born as a twin or multiple were diagnosed with ASD.
  • Children conceived using ART were more likely to be diagnosed with ASD if intracytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) was used compared to conventional in vitro fertilization. ICSI and in vitro fertilization are procedures in which fertilization (a sperm entering an egg) occurs outside of the body; ICSI occurs by injecting a sperm directly into an egg while in vitro fertilization involves mixing sperm with eggs in a laboratory dish and allowing fertilization to occur.
  • More research is needed to explore what exactly underlies the observed relationship between ICSI and ASD.

About these studies:

These studies used one of the largest population-based datasets on ART. Specifically, these studies examined data obtained from three sources: the California Birth Master Files, the California Department of Developmental Services autism caseload records, and CDC’s National ART Surveillance System. These datasets included a total of almost 6 million births, including almost 50,000 children conceived through ART. A key advantage of this study is its large size, which provides more confidence in the results than previous studies that looked at relationships between ART and ASD.

About the Author:

Dr. Robert Angelone is an economist and co-founder of Autism Citizen, Inc. He is dedicated to the cause of autism acceptance and protection of the rights of those with ASD. He believes education is the key to improving life for those on the spectrum.

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