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Children conceived from parents who underwent fertility treatment 30% more likely to suffer asthma

Children conceived from parents who used infertility treatments may be at an increased risk of developing asthma, eczema or having allergies, a new study finds.

Researchers at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, both part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), found that the treatments have been growing in prevalence in recent years may be leaving the child vulnerable.

Children who are conceived after the use of the treatment are 77 percent more likely to suffer from eczema, at a 30 percent increase risk of asthma, and are 45 percent more likely to require a prescriptions allergy medication in their youth.

The mechanism causing this phenomena could not be determined by the NIH research team, but they are calling for further investigation into potential links between the treatment and these types of conditions.

A new study finds that a child born to parents who underwent fertility treatment before conception is at an increased risk of developing chronic conditions like asthma or eczema (file photo)

These types of treatments are gaining popularity around the U.S., making the findings of the NIH have wide reaching effects on Americans.

According to a Pew Research Center poll in 2018, around a third of U.S. adults had either used themselves or know someone that used the treatment. Nearly half of college educated adults, and half of those that makes $75,000 per year or more, also reported using or knowing someone that had used the treatment.

The researchers, who published their findings last week in Human Reproduction, gathered data from 5,000 mothers and 6,000 children that were born from 2008 to 2010.

The mothers were surveyed on whether they used the treatment before, their own health and the health of their children.


Asthma is a common but incurable condition which affects the small tubes inside the lungs.

It can cause them to become inflamed, or swollen, which restricts the airways and makes it harder to breathe.

The condition affects people of all ages and often starts in childhood. Symptoms may improve or even go away as children grow older, but can return in adulthood.

Symptoms include wheezing, breathlessness, a tight chest and coughing, and these may get worse during an asthma attack.

Treatment usually involves medication which is inhaled to calm down the lungs.

Triggers for the condition include allergies, dust, air pollution, exercise and infections such as cold or flu.

If you think you or your child has asthma you should visit a doctor, because it can develop into more serious complications like fatigue or lung infections.

Source: NHS  

‘Specifically, we saw that children conceived with infertility treatments – including in vitro fertilization, taking drugs that stimulate ovulation, and undergoing procedures that insert sperm into the uterus – were more likely to have at least 2 reports of wheeze by age 3, which is considered a potential indication of asthma early on,’ Dr Edwina Yeung, a researcher at the NIH, told in an email.

‘When we followed these kids to about seven to nine years of age we found children conceived with these treatments were more likely to have asthma, eczema or have a prescription for allergy medication.’

Neither eczema nor asthma are particularly rare conditions in the U.S., according to official data.

The National Eczema Association reports that 31.6 million Americans – or just over ten percent – suffer from the condition that often causes itchy skin and rashes due to inflammation and swelling of the skin.

The American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology reports that around eight percent of Americans suffer from asthma. It is the most common chronic condition suffered by children in the U.S. 

Neither condition is particularly dangerous, and while they can harm a person’s quality of life, they usually are not debilitating. 

‘Asthma and allergic conditions are some of the most common chronic diseases affecting children,’ Yeung said.

Researchers can not pinpoint the link between the treatment and these two conditions.

‘An important research direction to pinpoint a mechanism will be to clarify and unravel the impacts of fertility medications or procedures themselves from underlying subfertility,’ Yeung said.

While the findings may be worrying, it may be too early for a prospective parent to choose against using these infertility therapies.

This research is still in the early stages, the researcher wrote, and it is impossible to make any sort of call as to the value and risks of infertility treatment.

None of the conditions tied to the treatment are considered to be particularly devastating either.

‘Asthma and allergic conditions are some of the most common chronic diseases affecting children,’ Yeung said. 

‘If a parent, regardless of their use of fertility treatments in the past, notices any symptoms they should certainly consult with a healthcare provider.’