There has been a lot of media attention surrounding the recent study published in, Human Reproduction titled: “Multiplicity and early gestational age contribute to an increased risk of cerebral palsy from assisted conception: a population-based cohort study.”
Unfortunately, the media has decided that the investigators really meant to title their study:
“Fertility treatment causes cerebral palsy.”
The fact is that fertility treatment doesn’t cause cerebral palsy – prematurity does. Fertility treatment carries with it an increased risk of twins and higher order pregnancies (triplets, quadruplets, etc). Twins and higher order multiple pregnancies are usually delivered premature. Increased risk of cerebral palsy is from prematurity and multiplicity – not fertility treatment.
Researchers from Denmark showed very nicely that babies born prematurely are at a much higher risk of cerebral palsy. Multiples (more than one baby) were at higher risk of prematurity and therefore cerebral palsy. The researchers are trying to stress the importance that a single healthy baby should be the goal of fertility treatment.
What I don’t want future moms to do is fear that if they do fertility treatment, they will have a higher risk of a baby with cerebral palsy. What all future moms should realize is that fertility treatment is not without risk and having a multiple pregnancy (more than 1) puts you at risk for prematurity and therefore all the risks associated with prematurity – not just cerebral palsy.
It isn’t unusual for a patient to come in, “Doctor, I really want twins, and triplets wouldn’t be so bad either.” As a result of all the media attention surrounding this study, hopefully more women will now come in saying, “Doctor, I really want one healthy baby.”
Access the full study here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20554642
Hope this helps.