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Paediatr Perinat Epidemiol. 2012 Jul;26(4):361-72. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-3016.2012.01294.x.

Fertility therapies, infertility and autism spectrum disorders in the Nurses' Health Study II.

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  • 1Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, MA, USA.



An increasing number of women are utilizing fertility treatments, but little is known about their relation to autism spectrum disorders (ASD).


To determine the association between maternal fertility therapy use and risk of having a child with ASD, we conducted a nested case-control study within the Nurses' Health Study II (n = 116,430). Maternally reported diagnoses of ASD were confirmed through a supplementary questionnaire and, in a subgroup, the Autism Diagnostic Interview-Revised. Controls were randomly selected by frequency matching to case children's year of birth. Associations were examined by self-reported infertility and type of therapy using conditional logistic regression.


In all, 9% of the 507 cases and 7% of 2,529 controls indicated fertility therapy use for the index pregnancy. No significant associations with self-reported fertility therapies or history of infertility were seen in primary analyses. In subgroup analyses of women with maternal age ≥ 35 years (n = 1,020), artificial insemination was significantly associated with ASD; ovulation inducing drug (OID) use was significantly associated in crude but not adjusted analyses (odds ratio 1.81, 95% CI 0.96-3.42). Results were similar by diagnostic subgroup, though within the advanced maternal age group, OID and artificial insemination were significantly associated with Asperger syndrome and pervasive developmental disorder not-otherwise specified, but not autistic disorder.


[corrected] Assisted reproductive therapy and history of infertility did not increase risk of having a child with ASD in this study. However, the associations observed with OID and artificial insemination among older mothers, for whom these exposures are more common, warrant further investigation.

© 2012 Blackwell Publishing Ltd.

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