I was catching up on reading the July 2007 issue of the journal HUMAN REPRODUCTION during lunch and I found an interesting study out of Denmark that looked at the possibility of an increase in autism among babies born from fertility treatment. To the researchers' surprise, they discovered an actual DECREASE of autism risk in babies born from different fertility treatments (including hormonal treatment and technical treatment) as compared to babies conceived naturally.
To better understand the implications of these findings, let's look at how this data was obtained. The researchers started by reviewing the medical records of 461 babies born in Denmark between 1990-1999 who were later officially diagnosed with infantile autism. Next, they found 461 other non-autistic babies who matched the autistic ones in terms of gender, year of birth and county of birth. They then compared these two groups to look for any differences in the number of children who had been conceived from fertility treatment.
Of the babies in the autistic group 2.3% of them had been born from fertility treatment. Of the babies in the non-autistic group, 5.4% where born from fertility treatment. This was statistically significant and showed a lower risk of autism in the children who were conceived with some type of fertility treatment in comparison to those conceived naturally.
There could be some interesting factors that affect this. For example, one can imagine that women who are undergoing infertility treatment tend to be watched more closely by doctors and may also tend to be better about taking vitamins. Either of these alone could be the possible reason that the fertility babies did better in terms of avoiding autism. This initial study is promising and future research will serve to investigate this further.