When Baby-Making Just Takes Longer

Reduced fertility in parents linked to mild neurological impairments

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Having difficulty conceiving a baby over a long period of time may indicate a condition called subfertility. Subfertility carries its own slight risks if parents eventually do have a baby.

A recent study found that reduced fertility in parents may be linked to a slight neurological delay in those parents' toddlers after they do have a baby.

The researchers found that babies with mild neurological issues were more likely to be born to parents who took about four years to conceive.

"Attend all prenatal appointments."

The study, led by Jorien Seggers, of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, looked at the neurological development of 2-year-olds whose parents had fertility difficulties.

The researchers tracked 209 children from birth to age 2 and assessed their neurological functioning at age 2. Neurological functioning includes children's movement, such as fine motor skills and gross motor skills.

Neurological functioning also includes children's posture, muscle tone, reflexes and hand-eye coordination.

Most of the parents of these children took a long time to conceive, which is a possible indicator of subfertility. Subfertility means a couple is capable of conceiving a child, but they have reduced fertility overall.

Sixteen of the children were determined to have minor neurological dysfunction, which comprised 7.7 percent of the full group. Ten children had a simple mild neurological dysfunction, and six had a complex one.

The parents of these children took anywhere from just over a year and a half to just over 13 years to conceive, with most centered around 4 years.

Among the other children who did not have minor neurological impairment, the time it took the parents to conceive was generally almost half as long, ranging from one month to 13 years but mostly centered around 2 years, 10 months.  

The researchers analyzed these results and calculated that taking longer to conceive a child in subfertile parents may increase the risk of mild neurological impairment by about 30 percent, after taking into account the parents' age, their level of education and how many weeks into pregnancy the child was born.

These findings matched up with another study finding slight delays in children's motor skills development if their parents had taken a long time to get pregnant.

Past research has found that taking longer to conceive – an indicator of subfertility – may also be linked to more cesarean sections, high blood pressure during pregnancy, preterm birth, low birth weight and a higher rate of birth defects.

One limitation of this study was that it did not include twins, triplets or other multiples. Also, it did not appear that it was the length of time itself that was related to the children's slight neurological delay.

Rather, the link appears to be to those parents who had subfertility, and the length of time it took to become pregnant appears to be an indication of the presence of subfertility.

The study was published March 25 in the Fetal & Neonatal Edition of Archives of Disease in Childhood. The research was funded by the University Medical Center Groningen, the Postgraduate School Behavioural and Cognitive Neurosciences and the Cornelia Foundation. The authors declared no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
March 25, 2013
Last Updated:
August 16, 2013