Doctors and scientists are still learning about what effects in vitro fertilization may have on the health of children. But a new study of children's test scores provides evidence that IVF conception "does not have any detrimental effects on a child's intelligence or cognitive development," the author says.

Researchers looked at the academic test scores of 423 Iowa children ages 8 to 17 who were conceived by IVF and at the test scores of 372 matched peers from the same schools. They also analyzed data on the parents of the IVF children, including ethnicity, education, age and marital status. Most parents were white, had at least a college education and were married. The average age of mothers was 34.

The IVF kids scored higher than their peers in all grades on tests for reading, language, math and vocabulary. Lower test scores, not considered significant, were seen among children of multiple birth. Methods of IVF, including the use of fresh or frozen embryos, did not affect the results.

The higher test scores among the IVF kids were linked to the higher socioeconomic status and age of the parents. However, researchers did not have information on the age, marital status and education of parents in the control group. The study was published in the Oct. 10 issue of the journal Human Reproduction.

"Our findings are reassuring for clinicians and patients," as they suggest conception through IVF doesn't have negative developmental effects, said lead author Dr. Bradley Van Voorhis, in a news release.

Van Voorhis, director of the Center for Advanced Reproductive Care at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics added, UI Hospitals and Clinics, added, "By using age- and gender-matched children from the same classrooms as a control group to compare to our study participants, we attempted to control for any socioeconomic or environmental differences between the children born by IVF and their peers. But there still may have been some differences between the IVF children and the controls that we could not see from our data."

-- Jeannine Stein / Los Angeles Times