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IVF, Fertility Drugs Might Boost Autism Risk
Date:5/19/2010

Two studies show a link, but experts say risk to any one child remains low

WEDNESDAY, May 19 (HealthDay News) -- Children whose mothers took fertility drugs were almost twice as likely to have autism as other children, new research finds. Being conceived by in vitro fertilization (IVF) or born prematurely also seemed to up the risk of autism, according to another study.

In the first study, researchers asked 111 women taking part in the Nurses' Health Study II who had a child with an autism spectrum disorder about their history of fertility problems and use of ovulation-inducing drugs, such as Clomid or gonadotropins.

About 34 percent of moms with an autistic child had used fertility drugs compared to about 24 percent of some 3,900 mothers without an autistic child, the researchers found.

Clomid and gonadotropins are often used as a first-line treatment for infertility, defined as trying for a year or longer to get pregnant without success, said lead study author Kristen Lyall, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Nearly 47 percent of moms of autistic kids reported infertility, compared to about 33 percent of the other mothers, her team found.

One caveat to those statistics is that older women are both more likely to have fertility problems and to take ovulation-inducing drugs, and prior research has shown older moms are also more likely to have autistic children.

In the study, the median maternal age at the time the first child was born was 35, compared to about 25 for the general U.S. population, Lyall noted.

Even so, when the age of the mother and pregnancy complications were taken into account -- which can also heighten the risk of autism -- women with infertility and who used ovulation drugs still had a twofold greater chance of having a child with an autism spectrum disorder.

The absolute risk for any one mother to have a ch
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