IVF conception does not affect educational outcomes of premature children



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In vitro fertilization (IVF) has no impact on whether children born very prematurely will go on to need extra help at school, according to researchers at KAIMRC.

Premature babies are known to face an increased risk of neurodevelopmental problems. Studies on whether children conceived through IVF are more likely to have developmental problems and longer-term health issues have had conflicting results. While these two factors have been studied independently, little research has been published on the long-term developmental outcomes of preterm children born following IVF.

In previous research published in 2018, neonatologist Khalid Al-Hathlol of KAIMRC found that among very low birth weight premature babies, those born following IVF were at no greater risk of major birth defects, short-term disease or death than those born as a result of spontaneous conception.

He and his colleagues then turned to the question of educational performance. They compared the school performance of 79 IVF children born very prematurely (at 32 weeks or earlier) with that of the same number of very premature children born after natural conception. The children  were 8- to 16-years old when the study was carried out and had all received care in the neonatal intensive care unit at King Abdulaziz Medical City between 2001 and 2009.

Al-Hathlol’s team found that being conceived via IVF treatment did not affect the proportion of children who required extra lessons or had to repeat a grade. It also did not affect their chance of having learning difficulties or special educational needs.

Using both questionnaires and medical records, the researchers also found that levels of ADHD, autism, visual impairment, hearing problems, and difficulties with whole-body and large muscle movements were similar in both groups. The results were adjusted to take into account other differences between the groups, such as parental education level.


  1.  Al-Hathlol, K. et al. School performance and long-term outcomes of very preterm children conceived via in vitro fertilization.  JBRA Assisted Reproduction 24, 61-65 (2020). | article

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