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During my first pregnancy, conceived with the help of six rounds of Clomid, I worried about a lot of things: Would I carry my baby to term? Would he/she be healthy? Was there a secret twin hiding behind the one visible embryo? Would I poop on the table during delivery? Hey, I'm a worrier. It can't be helped.
It never occurred to me, though, to worry about autism. A recent study out of Harvard School of Public Health found that autism is twice as common in children of women who took Clomid and other similar infertility drugs than in children of women not treated for infertility. That baby of mine is seven now and developing normally, but should I have worried?
Yes and no. The research is not perfect. While the Harvard study was large with nearly 4,000 nurses participating -- 111 of whom reported having a child with autism -- the data was collected through questionnaires, not clinical research. That leaves room for ambiguity. And while the results were adjusted to account for age, whether or not the women gave birth prematurely or to multiples was not taken into consideration.
"Preterm delivery, low birth weight, twinning and maternal age are all associated with infertility treatment and they are all associated with the risk of autism. We need to understand how to tease these factors apart," observes Lisa Croen, senior research scientist with Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., and director of its Autism Research Program, who was not associated with the paper. "This study is addressing a really important question but we really need more data."
But the Harvard study does add to what Time calls a growing body of evidence linking infertility treatments to autism. During the same conference where the Harvard study was presented, Israeli researchers said they found a link between IVF and autism.
Here's the reassuring part: Even if this research is spot on -- and no one is saying that it is at this time -- the risk is still relatively low. The average woman under age 35 has a two percent risk of having a child with autism. With fertility treatment, that risk is theoretically raised just four percent.
Are you worried there could be a link between fertility drugs and autism? Chime in below.
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