According to a recent study published in The Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, one in three Australian women who have their first baby with the help of assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF fall pregnant again without treatment within two years.
Noelle Sadinsky, 43, is one of these women. After experiencing three miscarriages and further being diagnosed with unexplained infertility, Sadinsky underwent IVF in order to conceive her son, Jasper, 8.
“We spent a total of almost five years trying to conceive Jasper,” says Sadinsky. “Initially we tried to conceive naturally, then we went through a variety of fertility assistance techniques, and finally we underwent IVF. Jasper was conceived from the very first cycle of IVF.”
One and half years later Sadinsky decided to embark on the IVF journey again in order to add to her family and provide a sibling for Jasper.
“When we did IVF the second time we tried three rounds using a combination of fresh and frozen embryos,” she says. “None of the rounds were successful, and by that stage it had started to become all too consuming, and such a rollercoaster.”
With this in mind, Sadinsky and her husband made the decision to have a break from IVF, choosing to focus on and appreciate Jasper, and agreeing to maybe revisit IVF again further down the track.
A month later Sadinsky was pregnant.
“After we stopped IVF, I fell pregnant the very next month! It was a total shock but a lovely surprise,” she says. “You do hear about this happening all the time, and I can only assume it maybe happened because I had stopped thinking about it and resigned myself to the idea of not having another child.”
Sadinsky is now very happy as a mum of two, with no plans for any more.
Amanda Ferguson, 34, conceived her second child naturally, despite undertaking IVF treatment in order to conceive her first.
“I was 31 when I had Chelsea through IVF,” she says. “We had been trying to conceive naturally for almost two and half years without any luck, and following tests I was told that my cycles weren’t regular and I wasn’t ovulating.”
Chelsea was 18 months old when Ferguson felt ready to face the conception journey again, a journey that would last another 14 months. “I took fertility drugs three times and they didn’t work, so I took a break and then paid the deposit for IVF. I then had to wait for my period to come so we could start the process, but it never arrived - I was already pregnant!”
As with Sadinsky, Ferguson was very shocked when she found out she was pregnant, and took multiple tests before she really believed that it was real.
According to Dr Sonya Jessup from Demeter Fertility, these kinds of stories are commonplace in fertility practices across the country. However, she notes that the chances of a natural conception occurring relate to why IVF was needed in the first instance.
“If the Fallopian tubes are blocked or the sperm count is extremely low, then the chances of a natural pregnancy occurring are very limited. If the original sub-fertility was relatively ‘unexplained’, however, I always counsel patients that subsequent natural pregnancies are quite likely.”
Dr Jessup explains that there are other factors at play however when it comes to a natural pregnancy occurring. Some couples simply have a better understanding around the fertile times in their cycle, some women have endometriosis that has regressed to some extent from their first pregnancy, and others are just less focused on ‘trying’ to conceive.
As for anyone trying to conceive naturally, Dr Jessup offers the following advice. “Aim to return to a normal BMI after the baby is delivered to assist with natural ovulation, and start trying for the next baby as soon as it is deemed sanely possible.
“Also get some sleep so the window of opportunity for sex with your partner is longer than the three seconds between the new mum’s head hitting the pillow and the first snore!”
While Sadinsky and Ferguson’s stories are certainly uplifting and provide hope to many, for some, stories such as these can actually be a curse. Linda Reed-Enever, a mum to a daughter conceived via IVF, knows that all too well.
“I get really frustrated when people make comments along the lines of ‘it all happens when you stop trying’, and ‘maybe if you took a break, the baby would happen’,” she says. “It makes me feel sad, not just for me, but for all the others going through IVF or trying to conceive as well.
While Reed-Enever is aware these “amazing” natural pregnancies do happen, she says the road to conception can be hard enough “without others throwing in miracle expectations or stories of wonderful natural conceptions that happened against the odds”.
“At the end of the day this is your journey and while others may mean well, they are not walking in your shoes. Every one of us on this path handles it in our own way, but please know it is okay to tell someone you don’t want or need their advice, however well-meaning they may be.”