World-class study sheds light on schooling outcomes of IVF children

Understanding the long-term outcomes of IVF

Now, more than ever, couples and individuals are using fertility treatments such as IVF to begin or expand their families. In fact, 1 in 18 babies born in Australia are now conceived using IVF (as reported in 2020).1 Practically, this represents one to two children in every classroom.

Given the steady rise in IVF use throughout recent years, we must gain a deeper understanding of the long-term outcomes for these children, particularly regarding their developmental and educational milestones. Therefore, as part of my PhD research, I sought to discover if IVF-conceived children were at greater risk of developmental and educational delays than naturally conceived children.

The scientific proof is in the pudding

In the largest IVF-related Australian study, we assessed the schooling outcomes of 412,713 children aged between four and nine years (born between 2005 and 2014). The Australian Early Developmental Census (AEDC) – which examines physical health and wellbeing, social competence, emotional maturity, language and cognitive skills, communication skills and general knowledge – was used to assess developmental trends in children at school entry. Additionally, the National Assessment Program–Literacy and Numeracy (NAPLAN) test measured educational outcomes such as grammar and punctuation, reading, writing, spelling and numeracy, in grade 3.

The results from our study are reassuring to current and prospective parents and fertility specialists – we found equal developmental and educational outcomes between IVF and naturally conceived children. In fact, our findings indicated that IVF-conceived children performed slightly better in one learning domain, demonstrating they are more adept at writing than their peers.2 This suggests that school-based achievement is not adversely affected by IVF status.

Further to this, our results contradict previous studies that reported poorer school performance among IVF-conceived children. However, it’s worth noting that IVF technologies have evolved and advanced considerably since these studies, which date back to 2001. Therefore, our findings are more generalisable to modern-day fertility practice.

Results that set your mind at ease

Worry and anxiety are common in parenthood. However, these reassuring findings provide current and prospective parents with one less cause for concern. This robust analysis and large dataset have shown no link between IVF conception and adverse developmental outcomes for school-aged children, confirming that Australian IVF children have the same early childhood and schooling outcomes as their peers. While further research is needed to explore other long-term implications for IVF children, these results are encouraging and a good news story overall.


  1. Newman JE, Paul RC, Chambers GM. Assisted reproductive technology in Australia and New Zealand 2020. Sydney: National Perinatal Epidemiology and Statistics Unit, the University of New South Wales, Sydney, 2022. ↩︎
  2. Kennedy AL, Vollenhoven BJ, Hiscock RJ, et al. School-age outcomes among IVF-conceived children: A population-wide cohort study. PLoS Med, 2023;20(1): e1004148. doi: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1004148 ↩︎