Being pregnant after fertility treatment

“But people do put you in the same category as a normal pregnant woman…they think once you are pregnant, well you are the same as everyone else. Well, you might look the same as everybody else, but actually you are not.” (Liz).

Many women and men find that when they do finally get pregnant after fertility treatment, the emotional rollercoaster is not over. They described a complex mix of emotions, and being very anxious during their pregnancies after the long struggle. Health professionals, family and friends, usually saw no reason not to expect a normal pregnancy. Some felt rather abandoned by medical staff, after intense periods of contact with fertility clinics. As Liz (above) explained that was often difficult for the couple to feel normal. Martha bought a book called ‘The Long Awaited Stork’ which helped her understand why her pregnancy was different.

Marine had a daughter after an ectopic pregnancy and 4 complete IVF cycles. Her daughter was just 5 months old when she described how she was finding it strange to adjust to being a mother after trying to become one for almost 6 years.

Women who were pregnant at the time of the interview spoke of being nervous but excited. Some were keen to put their infertility anxieties behind them and just be normally pregnant. But there was also some resentment that others did not necessarily treat the pregnancy as special because it was hard-won.

Women could be fearful of losing the baby that had taken so long to conceive. Mary said she was entirely focused on the pregnancy and kept thinking, “This is my one chance”. Michelle said that she was keen not to moan about minor aches and pains during her pregnancy. Others described the pregnancy as “a little bit more precious” or “a precious cargo for everyone”, which of course influenced the extra care they took of themselves, not wanting to do anything to “jeopardise the pregnancy”.

Even women who had already experienced a successful pregnancy found their IVF pregnancies especially anxious. Some decided not to tell other people until they felt that the pregnancy was well established, and they were “well and truly pregnant” as Frances put it. Christine, a doctor, said she read every symptom during the early weeks. By nine or ten weeks she started to think it might work and then she just settled down to worry about the rest of the pregnancy. 

The fact that the pregnancy had been achieved through IVF affected some women’s decisions about antenatal screening. Anne discussed the pros and cons of antenatal screening for Down’s syndrome with her “lovely midwife” and decided to decline the test and just have a scan.

Men also sometimes described the pregnancy as an anxious time. Brian said it seemed to be just too good to be true and felt that, “We are not this lucky” and something was bound to go wrong.

Not everyone was anxious about the pregnancy. One of the men, James, said that it seemed to him his wife had had a relatively easy, good pregnancy. Frances conceived twins with donor sperm. Although she had had a difficult first pregnancy she was confident second time around that the doctors understood her health condition and would manage her health problems.

​Last reviewed July 2017.


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