20% of women have natural pregnancy after conceiving with IVF – study

Science and Health

One in five women, who used IVF to conceive their first child, conceived their following children without the same medical intervention, a new study has found.

The peer-reviewed study, published in academic journal Human Reproduction, analyzed data from 5000 women from across the globe. The data had been collected as part of 11 other studies from the year 1980 until 2021.

The study found that of the women that used IVF to conceive their first child, one in five conceived a second within the next three years without IVF.

Using IVF to conceive

Many women who undergo IVF do so because they are struggling with infertility. However, some women may choose to do so because they are in a homosexual relationship without the presense of sperm to incite pregnancy or because they are single and wish to have a baby.

Infertility is categorized as failure to fall pregnant within a 12 month period where unprotected heterosexual intercourse occurs regularly. It is estimated to impact 1 in 7 couples.

A petri dish is seen following an embryo transfer surgery at the Beijing Perfect Family Hospital, in Beijing, China April 6, 2023 (credit: REUTERS/TINGSHU WANG)

Explaining the natural conception

Many of the women who used IVF to conceive their first child, hold the mistaken belief that they cannot fall pregnant without medical intervention, the researchers explained. This could lead women into having unprotected sex.

 “Our findings suggest that natural pregnancy after having a baby by IVF is far from rare. This is in contrast with widely held views – by women and health professionals – and those commonly expressed in the media, that it is a highly unlikely event,” explained  Dr Annette Thwaites, one of the authors of the study.

Falling pregnant too quickly, or in unplanned circumstances, could have a detrimental impact on both the woman’s health and the baby’s, the researchers explained.

“Knowing what is possible would empower women to plan their families and make informed choices regarding further fertility treatment and/or contraception.”

The use of IVF

IVF, which was first used in 1978, has resulted in the birth of more than 10 million babies globally. It is estimated that 1-6% of babies born annually were conceived through IVF. 

Dr. Shema Tariq, from the United Kingdom, had been diagnosed with low ovarian reserve and told that she would likely require IVF to conceive a child. 

Tariq birthed two children, aged 3 and 4. The 4-year-old had been conceived using IVF but the 3-year-old was conceived naturally.

“It took six rounds of IVF to conceive our son, who was born in 2018.  My GP briefly mentioned contraception to me after he was born, but we both laughed and agreed that it wasn’t relevant. It never occurred to me that I might get pregnant (despite being a sexual health doctor).  I was 43 and had been told that my chances of conceiving naturally were less than 1%.,” Tariq said. 

“Eight months later I was unexpectedly, and naturally, pregnant with our daughter.  She has been the most wonderful surprise, but when we first found out I felt overwhelmed and unprepared for another pregnancy.  If I’d known that one-in-five women conceive naturally after IVF I’d have used contraception until I was ready both emotionally and physically.”