One in five women who have a baby through IVF ‘go on to get pregnant naturally’
After having a baby through IVF, one in five women may go on to get pregnant naturally.
Thousands of British and American women have fertility treatment to try to have a baby.
Many, who have tried unsuccessfully to conceive for more than a year, and are told they are ‘subfertile’, believe getting pregnant naturally is impossible.
But a scientific review of 11 studies, including almost 5,200 women, and spanning more than 40 years, has concluded that at least one in five women who have a child through fertility treatment will go on to conceive naturally afterwards.
It may be that they simply needed to keep trying for longer, or, some experts believe, they were helped to get pregnant again by the fertility treatment itself.
Around 55,000 people a year in the UK have fertility treatment to try to have a baby. Many, who have tried unsuccessfully to conceive for more than a year, and are told they are ‘subfertile’, believe getting pregnant naturally is impossible
Other experts suggest having one child could help with health conditions which cause infertility, such as endometriosis, or remove the stress of trying to get pregnant, which may make it easier to do so a second time.
Dr Annette Thwaites, lead author of the scientific review, from University College London, said: ‘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.’
The research, published in the journal Human Reproduction, looked at global studies on natural pregnancy after IVF, published between 1980 and 2021.
The overall data showed at least one in five women conceived without help after having a baby using fertility treatment, which was mainly IVF.
Some 18 per cent conceived naturally within only three years of giving birth to a child from fertility treatment.
The study authors say women should be aware that getting pregnant after having a child through a process like IVF is not a rarity and is in fact relatively common.
Women need to know this could happen, because those who do not realise, and don’t use contraception, could end up pregnant again far faster than they expect, when they are not yet physically or emotionally ready for another child.
Infertility is defined by the failure to achieve a pregnancy after 12 months or more of regular unprotected sex, and it is estimated to affect one in seven heterosexual couples.
But it does not mean they are permanently infertile, and around half of couples who struggle to conceive naturally in the first year of trying will go on to do so in the second year.
The study concludes that at least one in five women become pregnant naturally after having a baby through fertility treatment, because the figure could be higher.
The studies included in the review varied in how long they kept track of women after they had a child, from two to 15 years, so could have missed subsequent pregnancies.
More research is needed, as some of the studies were only of moderate quality.