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Expert reaction to study of infertility and autism spectrum disorder in children

A study published in JAMA Network Open looks at infertility and the risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder in children. 


Dr Ying Cheong, Professor of Reproductive Medicine, University of Southampton, said:

“Velez and colleagues examined a population database in Ontario, Canada, of over 1.6 million deliveries and found that there is a slight increase in the risk of childhood autism associated with children born to people who have infertility compared to those without, and that this risk is more to do with the associated pregnancy and delivery complications rather than the fertility treatment techniques.

“The results of Velex and colleagues research is consistent with others, and continues to provide reassurance that fertility treatment themselves do not increase the children’s risk of autism.

“The results of Velex and colleagues research highlight the point that pregnancies in women with a history of subfertility are high risk, and justify the need for an early pregnancy plan to monitor pregnancy progress in anticipation of any associated complications.

“More research is need to further understand why infertility is associated with more pregnancy complications.”


Prof Andrew Whitehouse, Telethon Kids Institute and The University of Western Australia, said:

“This was a well conducted study, which found a slightly higher likelihood of autism among women with infertility. This increased likelihood was very small – a 20% increase on what is already a small number. Importantly, the study found clear evidence that this slightly higher likelihood was not due to infertility treatment the women may have been receiving. Rather, it may be due to other obstetric complications that are more common among pregnancies for women with infertility, such as preterm birth.

“The findings of this study should not change the decision of any parent trying to conceive.”


‘Infertility and Risk of Autism Spectrum Disorder in Children’ by Maria P. Velez et al. was published in JAMA Network Open at 16:00 UK time on Monday 20th November.


DOI: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2023.43954


Declared interests

Dr Ying Cheong: No conflict of interest

Prof Andrew Whitehouse: No conflicts to declare

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