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Study: Fertility Problems Raise Risk of Neurological Disorders in Children

Posted by Lara Salahi  March 26, 2013 11:47 AM

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For nearly 1 in 10 women in the U.S. struggling to conceive, the frustration can feel overwhelming. Fortunately, more than 4 percent of those women will go on to bear children. But the prolonged time it took to finally get pregnant may bring on additional worries for some women.

A new study now suggests that women who get pregnant after about four years of trying may have a 30 percent higher chance of having a child with neurodevelopmental problems compared to women who conceive earlier.

These women encompass a category called delayed fertility – a middle ground between the so-called “fertile myrtles” and those diagnosed as infertile. Their eventual ability to conceive may come with the help of medications, technologies such as in vitro fertilization, or just the simple try-try-again.

Previous studies have shown that women who use assisted reproductive technologies are at an increased risk for premature labor and having a child with low birthweight, which have both been linked to problems in the child’s development.

The study, published Monday in the Archives of Disease in Childhood, suggests that the prolonged time it took to conceive may also play a role in the child’s development.

Researchers in the Netherlands studied 209 two-year-olds whose parents struggled to conceive. They tested the children’s motor and coordination skills and found developmental delays in nearly 8 percent of the children. Most of their parents took an average of four years to conceive.

However, there are many factors, such as older age, that may impede a couple’s ability to conceive and have also been linked to developmental delays in children. For some couples, delayed fertility could signal a potential medical condition in either the woman or her partner.

So what should couples do who are struggling to conceive? Nothing except to keep trying, say the researchers.

The small study only suggests a link between prolonged time to pregnancy and minor brain development delays – not that delayed fertility causes neurodevelopmental problems. It’s also unclear what type of women who have delayed fertility may have a child at higher risk for developmental disorders.

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About the author

Lara Salahi is an award-winning multimedia journalist whose specialty is reporting health and medical stories. She has worked in local, network, and cable television, international print, and documentary film. She More »

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