NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Despite some concerns to the contrary, parents’ fertility problems may have little effect on their children’s risk of coordination problems as they reach school age, a new study finds.
Some past research has found that babies born with the help of fertility treatment may, on average, have a slight delay in reaching some developmental milestones, like sitting up or walking.
That raises the question of whether they are more likely than their peers to have movement and coordination problems as they get older.
The new study, published in the journal Human Reproduction, looked at the risk of so-called developmental coordination disorder among 7-year-olds born to parents with and without fertility problems.
It’s estimated that about 5 percent of school-age children have some degree of developmental coordination disorder, which typically manifests as a persistent clumsiness. Children may frequently trip over their own feet, bump into things and have difficulty running, jumping or catching a ball. Some kids also have problems with fine motor skills, like writing and tying shoes.
The main concern with the disorder is that children may develop low self-esteem, sustain injuries when they try to be active, or avoid exercise altogether.
In the current study, researchers found that among more than 23,000 Danish 7-year-olds followed since birth, those conceived through infertility treatments had no increased risk of developmental coordination disorder. Nor was any particular infertility procedure linked to a heightened risk.
There was, however, evidence of a slightly higher risk of developmental coordination disorder among children whose parents had fertility problems but ultimately conceived naturally. These children — whose parents took longer than one year to conceive — were 35 percent more likely than children born to parents without fertility problems to screen positive for developmental coordination disorder.
Still, the vast majority did not have the disorder. Of the 1,614 children whose parents took longer than a year to conceive, 4 percent had signs and symptoms of developmental coordination disorder based on a standard screening questionnaire.
That compared with 3 percent of the 14,928 children whose parents had no fertility problems, and 3.5 percent of children conceived through infertility treatments.
“Our findings are overall reassuring,” write the researchers, led by Dr. Jin Liang Zhu of the University of Aarhus in Denmark.
Low fertility, they add, “may be modestly associated with the risk of developmental coordination disorder, but nothing in this study indicates an increased developmental coordination disorder risk related to assisted reproduction technologies.”
The researchers also found that children with delays in early developmental milestones, regardless of parents’ fertility, had a heightened risk of screening positive for developmental coordination disorder at age 7.
Compared with their peers, children who were not able to sit up on their own at 9 months of age were five times more likely to screen positive; the risk was nearly eight times higher among children who could not walk alone at the age of 16 months.
The findings, according to Zhu’s team, suggest that parents of children with such early developmental delays should talk with their doctors about any therapy that might be beneficial.
SOURCE: Human Reproduction, online February 6, 2010.