Infertility, infertility treatment and behavioural problems in the offspring

Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2011 Sep;25(5):466-77. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3016.2011.01220.x. Epub 2011 Jul 19.


Behavioural patterns in children of infertile couples may be influenced by both the underlying causes of infertility and stress in the couples. Treatment procedures, such as culture media and manipulation of gametes and embryos, may also result in developmental problems. We examined behavioural problems in children as a function of infertility and infertility treatment, using data from three population-based birth cohorts in Denmark (Aalborg-Odense Birth Cohort, Aarhus Birth Cohort and Danish National Birth Cohort). Information on time to pregnancy and infertility treatment was collected during pregnancy. Children aged between 7 and 21 years were assessed using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). The SDQ was completed by mothers in all cohorts and, in addition, by teachers in the Aarhus cohort and by children themselves in the Aalborg-Odense cohort. Children born after a time to pregnancy of >12 months and no infertility treatment had a behavioural pattern similar to children of fertile parents. Teachers reported a higher total difficulties score for children born after infertility treatment, but no significant differences were seen on any subscales of the teachers' report, and neither the mothers nor the children reported any differences on the total difficulties score and the prosocial behaviour score. Our results are thus overall reassuring regarding behavioural problems in children born to infertile couples, regardless of infertility treatment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adolescent Behavior / physiology
  • Adolescent Behavior / psychology*
  • Child
  • Child Behavior / physiology
  • Child Behavior / psychology*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / etiology*
  • Child Behavior Disorders / psychology
  • Child Development / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Denmark
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infertility / therapy*
  • Maternal Age
  • Pregnancy
  • Reproductive Techniques, Assisted / standards*
  • Social Behavior
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time Factors
  • Young Adult