Could your potential children be at the risk of developing ADHD, autism and other disorders?

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It’s common knowledge – the later you give birth, the higher the chance of your baby developing Down syndrome. More specifically, a 40 year old woman is 10 times more likely to give birth to a baby with Down syndrome, as opposed to a 30 year old woman.

That said, giving birth at a younger age doesn’t completely eliminate the chances of your child developing a disorder. In fact, there’s another lesser-known factor that could potentially put your unborn baby at risk of developing ADHD, autism, Down syndrome and other disorders. We’re talking about… hormone fertility treatments.

The link between hormonal fertility treatment and mental disorders

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#1: 2013 study published in British Medical Journal

In 2013, Aarhus University and Aarhus University Hospital joined forces on a new research project; this showed that children whose mothers received hormone stimulation are at higher risk of developing mental disorders.

The study, which was published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), saw researchers comparing three different groups of children: those who were naturally conceived, those whose mothers received hormone fertility treatments, and those who were conceived using in-vitro fertilization.

While the test-tube babies were found to be as mentally and physically healthy as those who were naturally conceived, this wasn’t the case for children of mothers who received hormone stimulation to promote egg development and ovulation. More specifically, the latter group are at a “small but increased risk” of developing autism, ADHD or behavioural problems. Unfortunately, the researchers of the study were unable to identify any explanations for these results.

#2: 2014 study published in European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology

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In another study published in the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology, it was found that children born to women with fertility problems have a higher risk of psychiatric disorders than naturally conceived children. These disorders include schizophrenia and psychoses, mental and behavioural syndromes, mental development disorders and more.

All in all, the findings suggest that 1.9% of all diagnosed psychiatric disorders in Denmark are associated with the mother’s infertility. That said, study author Dr Allan Jensen noted that it was unclear as to whether the increased risk was associated with factors related to the mother’s infertility, or to the treatment of this infertility.

#3: 2018 study published by the University of Haifa in Israel

This 2018 study is one of the most robust ones we’ve seen on this topic – it was conducted by researchers from  Mount Sinai Hospital in New York and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden, and it involved a whopping 108,548 boys. Because the researchers were specifically looking at how hormonal treatments was linked to autism, they decided to work only with boys, who are more likely to develop autism than girls.

The study showed that the chances of having a child on the autistic spectrum were 1.5 times higher for women who received progesterone hormone therapy. Researchers are now hypothesizing that progesterone activates a genetic mechanism that results in the development of autism.

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