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Autism, Infertility & IVF Procedures – Blog Feature
Lisa Rosenthal

By: Lisa Rosenthal on November 14th, 2016

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Autism, Infertility & IVF Procedures – "No Associated Autism Risks"

Fertility Treatment | In Vitro Fertilization (IVF)

IVF & Autism RiskIf you've ever wondered about if and how fertility treatment protocols affect the embryo, hopefully to become baby, here are some answers, at least when it comes to autism.

Dr. Alycia Halladay, Autism Speaks Senior Director of Environmental and Clinical Sciences dispels most fears that in vitro fertilization IVF procedures can add to the risk of autism.

Speak with one of Reproductive Medicine Associates of CT (RMACT)'s fertility experts to learn more about fertility treatment and autism risks.

IVF & Autism – What are the Risks?

"What IVF procedures appear to increase autism risk?
Dr. Halladay: 
The great news is that this study found no associated autism risk with the vast majority of IVF procedures. The one exception was surgical sperm retrieval. Even there, the overall increased risk was modest and disappeared entirely when the researchers excluded pregnancies that resulted in preterm or multiple births (twins, triplets, etc.). We know, from previous research, that preterm and multiple births can carry an increased risk of autism regardless of whether they result from natural or IVF conception. 

We’re considering IVF. What can we do with this new information on autism risk and surgical sperm extraction?
Dr. Halladay:
 You may want to share these finding with your doctor as part of a larger discussion about risks. If you are considering IVF with surgical sperm retrieval, you’ve probably been through rounds and rounds of testing and treatment.  From my perspective, the modest risk of autism is outweighed by the enormous benefit of having a child. But talk with your doctor. He or she may have some advice specific to your situation. For instance, you might want to consider your family history of autism or the results of any genetic testing you may have had when you started fertility treatment.

Importantly, follow your doctor’s advice on maintaining a healthy pregnancy. Go to your prenatal appointments regularly, and take your prenatal vitamins."

While autism is certainly a diagnosis that one can live with, knowing that IVF can increase the risk was not the news we wanted to hear. As we decrease our passing on difficult genes through pre-genetic screening (PGS), it's wonderful to hear that we are not increasing the odds of autism at the same time.

About Lisa Rosenthal

Lisa has over thirty years of experience in the fertility field. After her personal infertility journey, she felt dissatisfied with the lack of comprehensive services available to support her. She was determined to help others undergoing fertility treatment. Lisa has been with RMACT for eleven years and serves as Patient Advocate and the Strategic Content Lead.

Lisa is the teacher and founder of Fertile Yoga, a program designed to support men and women on their quest for their families through gentle movement and meditation.

Lisa’s true passion is supporting patients getting into treatment, being able to stay in treatment and staying whole and complete throughout the process. Lisa is also a Certified Grief Recovery Specialist, which is helpful in her work with fertility patients.

Her experience also includes working with RESOLVE: The National Infertility Association and The American Fertility Association (now Path2Parenthood), where she was Educational Coordinator, Conference Director and Assistant Executive Director.