May 21, 2010 — -- Children whose mothers took fertility drugs were almost twice as likely to have autism, according to a new study.
The study, conducted by researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health and presented Wednesday at the International Meeting for Autism Research in Philadelphia, found that autism was nearly twice as common among children of women who were treated with the ovulation-inducing medicines than women who did not suffer from infertility.
Researchers asked 111 women taking part in the Nurses' Health Study II who had a child with an autism spectrum disorder about their history of fertility problems and use of ovulation-inducing medicines.
About 34 percent of moms with an autistic child had used fertility drugs compared to about 24 percent of around 3,900 mothers without an autistic child, according to the research. Nearly 47 percent of moms of autistic kids reported infertility, compared to about 33 percent of the other mothers. And, according to the study, the longer women reported being treated for infertility, the higher the chances were that their child had an autism spectrum disorder.
Although many experts cautioned that the study was based on a questionnaire form administered to mothers of children with autism, and that the details of the study have not yet been published, the question about an ostensible link between infertility drugs and autism interested many autism experts.
"This study adds to a growing body of findings suggesting that reproductive assistive technologies are associated with increased risk for less optimal outcomes in babies," said Geraldine Dawson, chief scientific officer of Autism Speaks. "The risk, however, is still relatively small and this should be reassuring to women who are using these drugs."