Contraception after in vitro fertilisation (IVF): a qualitative study of the views of women who have had spontaneous pregnancies after successful IVF

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Abstract

Background: The use of in vitro fertilisation (IVF) has increased rapidly since its inception in 1978. Women seeking IVF have a wide range of subfertility causes including unexplained subfertility. A growing subgroup of women seek treatment for other reasons than fertility problems, for example, women in same sex relationships and single women. This study aims to better understand the contraceptive needs of women after successful IVF pregnancy in order to improve service delivery and prevent unplanned and rapid-repeat pregnancies. Methods: A qualitative study of views of women who have had spontaneous pregnancies after successful IVF. Participants were recruited using purposive and snowballing sampling methods from social media and peer networks. The framework method was used for analysis using NVivo12. Results: The sample comprised 21 interviewees from the United Kingdom (UK), having a range of spontaneous pregnancy outcomes, including single and multiple livebirths, miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy and termination of pregnancy. Contraceptive choices were subject to a complex and dynamic interaction of influencing factors including beliefs regarding subfertility, desire for children and views on contraception. None of the women recalled receiving any information or useful counselling about contraception during fertility or maternity care. After IVF pregnancy, most women (n = 16) used no or ineffective contraception. Spontaneous pregnancy was not universally welcomed in this group and inter-pregnancy intervals were often short (n = 16, less than 18 months). Even after subsequent spontaneous pregnancy, use of contraception and the most effective methods remained low. Women held persistent beliefs regarding their subfertility despite subsequent spontaneous pregnancy. They associated aspects of the IVF process with a sense of personal failure, despite an ultimately “successful” outcome of livebirth. These aspects may reinforce their self-belief in subfertility. Other barriers to contraception use in women having IVF included: lack of knowledge of likelihood of spontaneous pregnancy, lack of contraceptive experience and inherent incentives towards shorter inter-pregnancy intervals. Conclusions: The contraceptive needs of women having IVF pregnancies are real and are being overlooked. Fertility services should take responsibility for providing information on the risks of subsequent spontaneous pregnancy. Maternity and community healthcare professionals must address women’s perceptions of their fertility in order to engage them in contraception counselling.

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APA

Thwaites, A., Hall, J., Barrett, G., & Stephenson, J. (2022). Contraception after in vitro fertilisation (IVF): a qualitative study of the views of women who have had spontaneous pregnancies after successful IVF. Reproductive Health, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12978-022-01349-2

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