2022: Fertility Treatment | News and Features – University of Bristol | Candle Made Easy

Differences in growth, weight and body fat percentage in children conceived through fertility treatment are small and disappear in late adolescence, a new study finds.

The University of Bristol-led study, published in JAMA network open today [July 26], attempted to address concerns about whether fertility treatment is associated with growth, weight, and body fat from childhood through early adulthood.

Ever since the first birth of a child through in vitro fertilization (IVF), questions have been raised about the risks to children conceived this way. While previous studies have shown an increased risk of low birth weight and preterm birth in offspring conceived by assisted reproductive technology (ART), relatively little is known about long-term growth and weight gain.

The study, led by an international research group from the Assisted Reproductive Technology and Future Health (ART-Health) Cohort Collaboration, looked at whether conception by ART, which mainly involves IVF, was associated with growth, weight and body fat from infancy through the elderly early years was adulthood.

Using data from 158,000 European, Asia Pacific and Canadian children conceived by ART, the data sample* included 8,600 children from Bristol’s Children of the 90s study, a world-leading Bristol-based health study that included 14,000 pregnant women and has accompanied her offspring since 1991.

The team’s results show that those conceived with ART were, on average, smaller, lighter and thinner than their naturally conceived peers from childhood through early adolescence. However, the differences were small across all age groups and decreased with increasing age.

dr Ahmed Elhakeem, Senior Research Associate in Epidemiology at Bristol Medical School: Population Health Sciences (PHS) at the University of Bristol and lead author of the study, said: “This is important work. Conception of ART has increased over the past three decades. In the UK, just over one in 30 children was conceived by ART, so on average we would expect one child in every primary school year to be conceived this way. Since the first birth of a child through IVF, concerns have been raised about the risks to the children conceived.

“Parents and their children conceived with ART can be reassured that this could mean they are slightly smaller and lighter from infancy through adolescence, but these differences are unlikely to have any health implications. We recognize that as more and more people conceived with ART become adults, it’s important that we continue to investigate any potential health risks in older age.”

Deborah Lawlor, Professor of Epidemiology, MRC Investigator and Chair of the British Heart Foundation and Senior Author at Bristol Medical School PHS, added: “This important research is only possible through large-scale international collaboration and longitudinal health studies, in which participants during contribute health data throughout their lives. We are particularly grateful to the European Research Council and Horizon 2020 for making this possible, as well as all study participants and researchers.”

Peter Thompson, Chief Executive, The Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority (HFEA), said: “Around 1 in 7 couples in the UK have difficulty conceiving, resulting in around 53,000 patients undergoing fertility treatment (IVF or donor insemination) each year ) undergo. The results of this study will be a welcome relief to these patients who are beginning treatment in hopes of one day having healthy children of their own.

“Health outcomes in children conceived using assisted reproductive technology are a high priority for the HFEA and we monitor the latest research and make information available to patients and professionals. Anyone considering fertility treatment can access this and other high quality, impartial information on fertility treatments and UK licensed clinics at www.hfea.gov.uk.”

Studies with larger samples at older ages are now needed. Other outcomes such as cardiometabolic risk factors after ART also need to be investigated. The collaborative network developed as part of the study will facilitate future research into health outcomes after ART.

The study, funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, the Medical Research Council (MRC), the British Heart Foundation (BHF) and the National Institute for Health and Care Research Bristol Biomedical Research Center ( NIHR Bristol BRC), to be unveiled next month [27-31 August] 2022 DOHaD World Congress.

Further information


Association of assisted reproductive technology with offspring growth and obesity from infancy to early adulthood’ by Ahmed Elhakeem, PhD et al. in JAMA network open [open access]

DOI: 10.1001/Jamanetworkopen.2022.22106

* A total of 26 longitudinal cohort studies with participants from Europe (20 cohorts), Australia (2 cohorts), New Zealand (1 cohort), China (1 cohort), Singapore (1 cohort), and Canada (1 cohort) were included in this study.

About kids of the 90s

Children of the 90s, also known as the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children (ALSPAC), is a University of Bristol-based long-term health research project that involved more than 14,000 pregnant women in 1991 and since 1992 has since detailed the health and development of parents , their children and now their grandchildren. It receives core funding from the Medical Research Council, the Wellcome Trust and the University of Bristol.

Visit www.childrenofthe90s.ac.uk for more information

About the National Institute for Health and Care Research
The mission of the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) is to improve the nation’s health and wealth through research. We do this through:

funding high-quality, timely research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care;

  • Investing in world-class expertise, facilities and skilled people to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services;
  • Partnering with patients, service users, caregivers and communities to improve the relevance, quality and impact of our research;
  • attracting, training and supporting the best researchers to solve complex health and social challenges;
  • Working with other public funders, charities and industry to help shape a coherent and globally competitive research system;
  • Funding applied global health research and education to meet the needs of the poorest in low- and middle-income countries.

NIHR is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. Its work in low- and middle-income countries is funded primarily through the UK Government’s UK Aid.

About the National Institute for Health and Care Research Bristol Biomedical Research Center (NIHR Bristol BRC)

The innovative biomedical research at the National Institute for Health and Care Research Bristol Biomedical Research Center (NIHR Bristol BRC) takes science off the bench or computer and develops it into new medicines, treatments or health advice. Its world-leading scientists work on many aspects of health, from the role of individual genes and proteins to analyzing large data sets from hundreds of thousands of people. The Bristol BRC is unique among the NIHR’s 20 BRCs across England thanks to its expertise in pioneering public health research.

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