IVF pregnancies

Dear Professor Winston,

I am currently 14 weeks pregnant with our first IVF baby. A very exciting time for us and starting to get our heads around all the pregnancy related terms, phrases and procedures. We have just had an appointment with our maternity ward’s registrar who has confused us greatly. She told us that because we are having an IVF pregnancy, we are high risk and would have consultant-led care. This would mean extra scans (which I am more than happy about), extra checks on the baby’s progress as IVF pregnancies tend to be of a lower birth weight (which there is very limited information on when I have researched it), and there would be talks of inducing me early, from 37 weeks, as IVF pregnancies don’t progress as normally after this and are at risk of becoming a still birth. I am extremely confused about all of this as not all hospitals in the country follow this procedure and the only research I can find about this was an Australian study conducted 10 years ago which highlighted some links between IVF and low birth weight. I don’t think I am a particularly high risk patient either. I am in my early 30s, lead a healthy lifestyle, have no other medical conditions or history would could be a contributory factor, and we had a straight forward IVF due to unexplained infertility. Please could you let me know if there is any medical research to support these claims, whether IVF pregnancies are at a higher risk than other pregnancies and whether this consultant led care is generally the common procedure that most, good hospitals take? Thank you for your time. L

Dear L,

I am sorry – I think you have been alarmed rather unnecessarily. Yours is not a particularly high risk pregnancy and I am unconvinced you need extra scans even. Though if they wish to waste NHS money on making sure your pregnancy is as safe as could be, I wouldn’t worry too much! Crucially, though, you didn’t tell me why you had IVF in the first place, as the cause of infertility can be important when it comes to antenatal care. But for the average IVF patient who has ‘unexplained infertility’ (you may have read my blog on this excuse for a failure of diagnosis), happily pregnant with a growing baby, there is no need, in my view for induction of labour so early. Hey – and rejoice in consultant led care. What have you got to lose by being sure that the leading expert on the unit is taking a personal interest in you and your baby’s welfare? As to low birth weight – well it is true that there is a higher incidence after IVF, most of this due to multiple pregnancy and pregnancy in women a great deal older than yourself. But if you are being scanned properly, it shouldn’t be any problem in the unlikely event that intervention is needed. Actually the main risk is miscarriage, but by the time you get to read this you are largely in the safety zone.

Congratulations and best wishes
Robert Winston