One in six women fall pregnant spontaneously after IVF

IVF is often a last resort for women and couples who have tried for a long time to get pregnant. Of those who try IVF, only about half have a baby as a result of treatment. But new research shows that within five years of ending IVF, whether they were successful or not, about one in six women have a baby without IVF.

The study was conducted in Scotland and looked at data from the 2,133 women who had IVF treatment in one clinic between 1998 and 2011. Within five years of their last embryo transfer, 17 per cent of the women whose treatment was unsuccessful and 15 per cent of women whose treatment resulted in a live birth had given birth after conceiving naturally. In both groups, shorter duration of infertility, younger female age and IVF rather than ICSI (used for male factor infertility) increased the chance of achieving a treatment-independent live birth.

Some years ago, an Australian study also found that quite a few women who had their first baby with IVF had a second baby without treatment within two years. This study involved about 400 pregnant women. Half had conceived spontaneously and the other half had conceived with IVF. About two years after having their first baby the women were contacted and asked if they had conceived again. Of those who had conceived spontaneously with their first child, 40 per cent had conceived again. And among women whose first child was IVF conceived, one in three (33%) had unexpectedly conceived spontaneously!

These studies show that spontaneous pregnancies are quite common after IVF. So, if you don’t want to conceive soon after birth, you need reliable contraception, even if you’ve had IVF in the past.

Sources

ElMokhallalati Y, van Eekelen R, Bhattacharya S, McLernon DJ. Treatment-independent live birth after in-vitro fertilisation: a retrospective cohort study of 2,133 women. Human Reproduction 2019.

Wynter K, McMahon C, Hammarberg K, McBain J, Gibson F, Boivin J et al. Spontaneous conceptions within two years of having a first infant with assisted conception. Aust N Z J Obstet Gynaecol 2013;53:471-6.