Children of unplanned pregnancies are more likely to have poorer vocabulary, spatial and non-verbal abilities compared to other kids, researchers reported in the BMJ (British Medical Journal). In the majority of cases it is caused by the child being in disadvantaged circumstances.
The study also evaluated the outcomes for children who were born as a result of infertility treatment. In such cases no adverse effects on their development was identified.
Between 30% to 40% of all births in the UK are from unplanned pregnancies. The number of children born after fertility treatment is gradually growing.
The authors explained that babies born after the mother had been trying to get pregnant for a long time, or as a result of assisted reproduction, have a greater chance of adverse health consequences, such as low birth weight, being born prematurely, having congenital anomalies, and in some cases low cognitive function.
Children of unplanned pregnancies, the authors revealed, have poorer outcomes. However, not much research has been done to determine whether pregnancy planning (or not) might be linked to child development.
The British researchers wanted to find out whether time to conception, pregnancy planning, and/or infertility treatment had an impact on a child's cognitive development by the time they reached the age of three and five years.
They gathered data from a large UK study - the Millennium Cohort Study - involving 12,000 children born in 2000-2002. Their parents were interviewed when their children were 9 months, 3 years and 5 years old.
They gathered data on which mothers had planned their pregnancy, how they felt when they became pregnant, how long it took them to conceive, and whether they were involved in any fertility treatment.
Tests were performed on the children's verbal, non-verbal and spacial skills when they were three and five years old, using the British Ability Scales.
They found, initially, that children born after fertility treatment tended to be three to four months ahead of others of the same age, while those born after an unplanned pregnancy were four to five months behind.
However, when the researchers factored in socioeconomic circumstances, the differences almost disappeared completely.
"These differences are almost entirely explained by socioeconomic factors, providing further evidence of the influence of socioeconomic inequalities on the lives of children in the UK. To help children achieve their full potential, policy makers should continue to target social inequalities."
"Effect of pregnancy planning and fertility treatment on cognitive outcomes in children at ages 3 and 5: longitudinal cohort study"
C Carson, Y Kelly, J J Kurinczuk, A Sacker, M Redshaw, M A Quigley
BMJ 2011;343:d4473 doi: 10.1136/bmj.d4473
Written by Christian Nordqvist