Objectives: There has been an absence of research investigating if infertility and the utilisation of Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) to conceive increases maternal perceptions of child vulnerability. The purpose of the current study was to assess if there were differences in maternal ratings of child vulnerability between first-time mothers who conceived using ART procedures and first-time mothers who conceived spontaneously.
Methods: This cross-sectional study was comprised of 171 first-time mothers who conceived using ART and 198 first-time mothers who conceived spontaneously. Study questionnaires were completed online via Qualtrics.
Results: Mothers who conceived using ART (Mean Vulnerable Child Scale Total Score = 43.85; SD = 9.65) endorsed greater perceptions of child vulnerability compared to mothers who conceived spontaneously (Mean Vulnerable Child Scale Total Score = 49.03; SD = 7.15; p < .001). In a hierarchical multiple linear regression analysis, the dichotomous variable that indicated maternal mode of conception (i.e. ART or spontaneous) was associated with the Vulnerable Child Scale Total Score (standardised beta coefficient = -.25; p < .001). Bivariate correlations revealed a small, negative correlation between using a donor sperm and/or egg and the Vulnerable Child Scale Total Score (r = -.21; p < .01).
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that vulnerable child syndrome may be more likely to occur when mothers conceive using ART, particularly when a donor sperm and/or egg is utilised.
Keywords: Vulnerable child syndrome; assisted reproductive technology; fertility treatments; infertility.