If you’ve read the sensational stories of couples who had a baby after years of IVF treatment, but then conceived their second child naturally, you probably think it will never happen to you. But a recent study has found that natural pregnancies after having an IVF baby could be much more common than we assume.
Infertility May Not Be Permanent
In 2023, a team of researchers led by Dr Annette Thwaites gathered information from 11 studies conducted between 1980 and 2021, covering the experiences of over 5000 women. Thwaites, of the Institute of Women’s Health, UCL, London, UK, concluded that at least 1 in 5 women conceived naturally after having a baby using fertility treatment, including IVF.
In most cases, the second baby was born within 3 years of the first. The research team therefore pointed out that infertility is not necessarily permanent. While we might think that natural pregnancies following IVF pregnancies ‘only happen to other people’, this research shows that it is far from an unusual event.
For heterosexual couples who have had a child using IVF or another form of fertility treatment, the results of this study may come as welcome news. Knowing that there is a possibility of conceiving a second child naturally may bring hope to many who might previously have assumed that they would need to return to a clinic to try for another baby.
However, Thwaites and her team also make it clear that this research empowers women and couples to make informed decisions about contraception, trying to conceive naturally, and when to embark on further fertility treatment.
Couples who required fertility treatment to conceive their first child may think that their previous difficulties getting pregnant indicate that contraception is simply not required. However, Thwaites suggests that unless you would be happy to fall pregnant, contraception should be considered to avoid an unexpected or unplanned pregnancy.
While those who have their children close together may enjoy the smaller age gap, some may find it challenging having two babies, two toddlers and so on, at the same time. Making an informed choice about whether to use contraception will help you avoid a subsequent pregnancy occurring before you feel emotionally and physically ready.
For couples who are certain that they wish to try again for a second baby, this study provides hope. Instead of returning to a fertility clinic as soon as you feel ready to try for baby number two, you may instead choose to try to conceive naturally for a few months. A successful natural pregnancy could help you avoid the emotional and physical impact of IVF, as well as its financial implications.
Speak to a Specialist
The team at UCL have shown that your chance of a second, natural pregnancy may be higher than expected. However, there will be some cases where conception is very unlikely, or physically cannot occur, without medical assistance.
We are all unique, and it is not possible to give advice that will suit every situation. If you are considering having a second child, it is wise to speak to your fertility specialist or OBGYN regarding your individual circumstances and the options available to you.
It is empowering to learn that 1 in 5 women conceive naturally after giving birth to a child conceived using fertility treatment. This research provides hope, and may also help couples make decisions about contraception and trying for a second child.
If you are trying to conceive, you can find out more about your fertility at home using a YO home sperm test.