IVF Babies Are Smarter: Is It True?
Since its popularization in the 1980s, In-vitro Fertilization has been a boon to many couples having issues conceiving the natural way. A lot of couples who would have given up on their hope of becoming parents, had it been a few years ago, have happy, little families blossoming now. The technique that involves sperm and ovum collection and their eventual fusion outside the body of the woman, under laboratory conditions, increases the chances of fertilization.
The resulting embryos are then released into the uterus for implantation. If the implantation is a success, then the following pregnancy will be the same as the natural pregnancy. However, the question is, do the babies born through such an advanced technique, after deliberate selection of the gametes in some cases have an edge over their contemporaries. In this article we will answer the most asked question, ‘are IVF babies smarter?’
Before decoding if IVF babies are smarter or not, let’s try to understand how are babies born through IVF. What does the IVF treatment include and how does the procedure proceeds.
The first step fo IVF treatment is the stimulation of the ovaries. This procedure is aimed at facilitating your ovaries to produce multiple eggs at a time. Hormones, FSH( Follicle Stimulating Hormone), and LH(Luteinizing Hormone) are administered for the purpose of stimulation. FSH helps the follicles, which are fluid-filled sacs containing the eggs to mature and LH triggered them towards release. Within a week to a fortnight, HCG is given to allow the eggs to mature. Certain medications are also included in the protocol to prevent premature ovulation.
Egg and Sperm Aspiration
Eggs are then retrieved from the ovary. This is done with the help of a transvaginal ultrasound that helps identify the matured follicle from which the eggs can be extracted. After the eggs are retrieved, treatment with progesterone starts to initiate the preparation of the uterine lining for implantation and further development of the baby.
On the same day, the male partner will most likely be asked to donate sperm. Conventionally, semen collection is done through masturbation. However, if that is not possible due to some reasons, then sperms can be directly taken from the testes using a syringe.
One way of achieving fertilization is to mix the collected eggs and healthy sperm and leave them overnight to fertilize. Another way is Intra Cytoplasmic Sperm Injection. This technique is used when there is a problem with the quality of semen. A healthy sperm is selected and injected directly into an ovum.
After fertilization, as the zygote divides to form an embryo, the embryo is released into the uterus where implantation is expected. In some cases, assisted hatching is recommended. In that, the membrane inside which the embryo rests, zona pellucida, is punctured, and then it is released into the uterus to increase the chances of fertilization.
Assisted hatching is usually recommended for women who had had a few failed attempts at IVF. It can also be used for embryos that were frozen as in that case, the zona pellucida hardens up.
Embryos are usually screened before transfer. Only one or two healthy embryos are selected for the next procedure. A catheter is inserted into the uterus with a syringe at its end, containing the healthy embryos which are then injected. A pregnancy tests after two weeks confirms the success of the IVF.
Are IVF Babies Smarter?
A number of studies report that babies born through IVF have a higher IQ. However, what can be accredited to the intelligence of IVF babies? Since IVF is a relatively new field, a lot still remains undiscovered. However, as far as the intelligence of IVF babies is considered, several contributing factors have been pointed out.
The major one is the socioeconomic factor. Since IVF is exorbitantly priced, it is more likely to be availed of by the relatively wealthier section of society. When both parents are well educated, they channel their focus towards the upbringing of their child. The environment that the child grows up in is undoubtedly better than what most of their contemporaries get to live with. In addition to that, the high level of exposure and the guidance of parents contribute to their higher standards of intelligence.
Another factor that is considered is the genetic aspect of intelligence. Around 1200 single nucleotide polymorphisms(SNPs) have been associated with intelligence. SNPs are genes that differ only at one nucleotide. So, before the embryo transfer, the embryos are usually screened so that the best can be selected. The ones with the highest polygenic scores are usually released into the uterus for implantation. Sometimes, this screening process might lead to the selection of an embryo with a genetic makeup that stimulates higher cognitive development.
As it is evident from the above explanation, intelligence is a combined effect of genes and circumstances. However, there is nothing specific with the IVF procedure that can heighten the intelligence levels of the babies born through that. Embryo screening does help you choose the healthiest and most desirable embryo. However, that is only from the available combination of genes. There can be other potential combinations favoring an even higher IQ. You neer know!
Your priority should always be to have a healthy baby. Babies with superior genetic makeup might be left behind if not raised properly while babies with ordinary genetic up might do wonders with guidance and hard work. Choosing a better combination of genes to stimulate higher cognitive development is not under your control and expecting that is not very generous too.
So, if we recap, ‘ are IVF babies smarter?’ Yes. ‘Does it have something to do with the process?’ not much. A lot of what your little one grows up to be, depends on how you decide to raise them and how much effort they put in during the later part of their life. Therefore, no rumor about the smartness of IVF babies shall bother you now. Your biggest takeaway has to be that your little one’s smartness has much to do with you and them and very little with how they were born.