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 the academic journal Human Reproduction, analyzed data from 5,000 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 who 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 same-sex relationship without the presence 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 one in seven couples.
What changes to allow 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.
The study said that a variety of causes could be behind the change in the ability to conceive naturally, such as age, or the condition that caused the woman's initial infertility. In cases when the infertility was a problem of the prospective father, women had far less spontaneous natural pregnancies than when the problem with in the woman's system.
“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.”
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, now aged three and four. The four-year-old had been conceived using IVF but the three-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."