Taking a long time to get pregnant may be linked to neurodevelopmental problems in the child, according to scientists who say that increasing evidence suggests that it may be the impaired fertility itself, rather than any fertility treatment, that is the culprit.
The new research, appearing in the journal Archives of Disease in Childhood, defines impaired fertility as failing to become pregnant after 12 months.
The researchers assessed the neurological development of more than 200 children when they were two years old. All had been born to parents who had struggled to conceive, and most of whom had had fertility treatment.
The assessments included movement (fine and gross motor functions), posture and muscle tone, reflexes, and eye-hand coordination (visuomotor function).
Mild neurological problems were evident in 17 (just under 8 percent) of the children, and were significantly more common among those whose parents had taken longer to conceive.
The time taken to get pregnant among their parents averaged just over four years, but ranged from 1.6 to just over 13 years.
Parents whose children did not have these problems took an average of two years and 8 months to conceive, but ranging from one month to 13 years.
After taking account of factors such as the parents' ages, the analysis indicated that longer time to pregnancy was associated with a 30 percent increased risk of giving birth to a child with mild neurodevelopmental problems.
"The present data suggest that increased time to pregnancy is associated with suboptimal neurological development," conclude the authors. "This implies that factors associated with subfertility may play a role in the genesis of neurodevelopmental problems."
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Source: British Medical Journal