Young adults conceived through IVF and other assisted reproductive technologies are just as healthy, smart and mentally stable as people conceived naturally, although they might carry a slightly higher risk of some illnesses such as asthma, an Australian study has concluded.
Murdoch Children's Research Institute researchers interviewed 656 mothers who used assisted reproductive technology, or ART, and 547 of their offspring aged 18 to 29. They compared their data with reports from 868 mothers who conceived naturally and 549 of their young-adult offspring.
They concluded the rate of chronic illnesses, growth measures such as puberty milestones, educational achievements and quality of life was generally similar between the two groups.
However, they found that the ART mothers reported their children were almost twice as likely to be hospitalised.
The most common reasons for admissions were hernia repairs, tonsil removals, dental surgery and genito-urinary problems such as twisted testes or hydrocele (collection of fluid in the scrotum).
The study, reported in the journal Fertility and Sterility on Thursday, also found people conceived through ART were twice as likely to have respiratory conditions such as asthma and hayfever.
But the researchers said it was unclear why these conditions were more prevalent among ART adults and that it could be explained by other factors related to the parents' health or higher ''parental vigilance'' and a greater tendency to seek medical solutions, as opposed to the mechanisms of IVF and other technologies used.
The research found no differences between the groups in autism, attention-deficit disorder or cognitive disabilities such as speech and learning difficulties.
The researchers said the results should provide some reassurance.
Previous studies have found ART babies are at increased risk of premature birth, low birth weight and death in their first days of life, causing concern ART children could experience poorer physical health and higher rates of illness later in life.
IVF pioneer and Melbourne IVF director Professor John McBain said some studies had suggested a higher rate of trivial birth abnormalities among ART babies such as clicky hips or an undescended testicle. Serious abnormalities of the nervous system, heart and gut affected about five in 1000 ART births compared with three in 1000 naturally conceived births, he said.
''It is a real increase, but 995 out of 1000 don't have the problem,'' he said.
About 150,000 Australians have been born through ART and on average, one child in every classroom is an ART baby.