An Australian study has found that five percent of babies born in the country today were conceived by in vitro fertilisation (IVF), or about one child in every classroom.
In partnership with the Raine Study—Australia’s longest-running public health study, the researchers from the University of Western Australia (UWA) also discovered an increase in depression in teenagers conceived with assisted reproductive technology.
“At 14 years of age IVF offspring had a higher incidence of clinical depression (12 percent compared to eight percent),” lead researcher Prof. Roger Hart, from UWA Medical School said.
The authors say that it is likely that the findings relate to the differences in parenting styles.
“Parents who conceived through assisted reproductive technology may be more overprotective, seeing their children as precious, and also have higher expectations from them, which in turn can affect the child’s behaviour,” the authors wrote.
Hart said that the higher prevalence of depression in this study is concerning but this seems to disappear by 17 years of age.
“It is reassuring that differences in the rates of depression were not observed at age 17,” he said. “It is possible that the adolescents perhaps become less sensitive to family and parenting influences over time.”
An earlier study by the team on the general health of IVF adolescents found that while there were no significant differences with the male teens, IVF girls had a lower BMI and less fat than the control group.
IVF Teens Show Less DelinquencyDespite showing higher rates of internalising behaviour like depression and anxiety, the IVF teens displayed a decreased tendency towards externalising behaviour, such as aggressive and delinquent conduct.
The authors say that this trait may be due to the higher social economic status in families who conceived through IVF and as follows, report fewer behavioural problems.
“It is well established that women with a higher social economic status are more likely to utilise assisted reproductive technology,” the authors wrote.
“The lower reported prevalence of externalising behaviour could be because IVF parents, after the hardship of trying to conceive, minimise problems and criticise their children less and, therefore, may report less behavioural problems.”
Published in Human Reproduction on Sep. 27, the study looked at the mental health of 163 teens born in Western Australia following IVF.
A major advantage of the study is that most research focused on short-term outcomes, whereas this study looked at mental health in older children and whether they may potentially be at an increased risk for poorer mental health and behaviour.
“With this knowledge, couples considering assisted reproductive technology can be aware of potential risks and act accordingly, for example, by recognising symptoms and seeking help and treatment early,” Hart said.