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

Center at Tel Aviv University. "This means that these two risk factors act as 'second hits' that affect the child more than just having autism."

Zachor stressed that the findings are preliminary and more widespread research is needed. "This will give us the answer if these procedures carry any risk for the baby."

So what does all this mean for couples struggling to conceive? Dr. Andrew Zimmerman, director of medical research at Kennedy Krieger Institute's Center for Autism and Related Disorders in Baltimore, said that women taking fertility drugs or undergoing IVF should not be unnecessarily alarmed.

The vast majority of children conceived in this way will not end up with autism, and most children who have autism were not conceived using IVF or with the help of fertility drugs, he said.

However, many physicians who work with kids with autism have remarked that lots of their patients seem to have been conceived via IVF. Prior to these studies, the observation was largely anecdotal, he said.

"I don't think we are at a point yet where we can make recommendations, but we are getting to a point where we are beginning to understand there probably is a relationship," Zimmerman said.

The reasons for the connection are not known, but it may be something about the process of in vitro fertilization, in which a sperm and egg are joined outside the womb, an embryo is created and implanted, or sometimes frozen and stored, then thawed for later use. Taking fertility drugs in early pregnancy could also contribute, Zimmerman said.

Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder that's characterized by problems with social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication, and restricted interests and behaviors.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke has mor
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