“Once You Adopt You’re Sure to Get Pregnant”

Dawn Davenport


once you adopt you are sure to get pregnant

If you’re infertile, when you tell people that you’re stopping fertility treatment and moving to adoption, you will almost be guaranteed to hear some variation of “you’ll get pregnant after you adopt.”

People don’t mean it maliciously; in fact, they usually mean it kindly – as a way of giving you hope. Regardless of the intent, the comment rankles for so many different reasons.

Is It True?

We’ve all heard that adoption makes it more likely that infertile women will conceive naturally, but is it true? Everyone it seems knows someone who has become pregnant after adopting, or at least knows someone who knows someone, and you are sure to hear about everyone of them. But is there any truth to the pervasive myth?

The answer is surprisingly hard to come by.

The statistic that I’ve seen most often is that 8% of adoptive parents will conceive after adoption. However, that statistic comes from a study published in 1970, long before the modern medical advances in treating infertility. My search for more current research has not found much. Any research on this topic would need to consider the fact that some people choose to adopt even though they are not infertile and an increasing number of adoptive parents are going back into infertility treatment after adopting.

While not directly answering the question of whether adoption increases the likelihood of conception, I thought it would be helpful to know how often a spontaneous pregnancy occurs after stopping fertility treatment. Again, there is not a lot of research, but at least there is more than research on pregnancy after adoption.

Research published in 2012 found that that 17 percent of women who became pregnant and gave birth after in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment became pregnant again without treatment within six years. For women who were unsuccessful with IVF, 24% became pregnant on their own after stopping treatment. Other recent research has found that 16% of infertile women conceive naturally after stopping treatment.

I strongly suspect that those who become pregnant after adoption fall within these percentages of spontaneous pregnancy. Depending on your infertility diagnosis, if you have enough sex at the right times you may end up pregnant. If you’ve adopted in the meantime, people will smile and say they just knew it would happen.

Perpetuating the Myth that Infertility is Cured by Relaxing

I believe one of the reasons that this statement is so offensive to the infertile is that it implies that the reason you will get pregnant after adopting is because you finally relaxed. Nothing drives someone who is infertile crazier than being told to “just relax”.

Infertility is a disease, and relaxing seldom cures diseases. We know that stress does not prevent conception. There is no more stressful conception environment than rape, and rape victims do get pregnant. Research reported by the National Institute of Health reports that the national rape-related pregnancy rate is 5.0% per rape among victims of reproductive age, compared to a 20% pregnancy rate for healthy fertile 30 year olds.  Clearly if stress was a major factor at work in preventing conception, this statistic would be far lower.

Now here’s where it get a little tricky – relaxing is good for your overall health. Good overall health improves your odds of being cured of many diseases, including infertility and cancer.

There have been several studies that show that mind/body work and use of relaxation techniques can improve success rate of IVF, just as there are studies that show that relaxation techniques can help with cancer treatment. This is NOT the same as saying that relaxing is the cure for infertility, just like relaxing won’t cure cancer. Nor is it the infertility patient’s fault that they are infertile because they are not relaxed, just like it isn’t the cancer patient`s fault that they have cancer because they are not relaxed.

Disrespectful to the Parents

When people tell you that you’re sure to get pregnant, they are often implying that this is or should be your motive for adopting. No self-respecting moderately caring parent would ever use a child in such a manner. It is beyond wrong on so many different levels. People should adopt because they want to parent a child. Period.

Adopted Kids Aren’t a Means to an End

The person who this myth hurts the most is the adopted child. Who wants to think of themselves as a cure for some disease? Who wants to believe that their highest worth is to help their parents achieve their real goal of having “a child of their own”? Every child deserves to be an end to himself – a magical miracle that will enrich the lives of both his families.

Killing the Myth

Feel free to quote the statistics I’ve given and even to share this link, but I don’t expect that it will do much good. The myth of the magical fertility juju that adoption bestows is like the fabled Hydra in Greek mythology – you might cut of one head, but it’ll likely just grow two more.

People are suckers for stories with a twist, especially if the twist leads to a happy ending. Your best bet is to come up with a safe response along the lines of: “We would certainly welcome a child by birth, but it is actually no more likely now that we’ve adopted, and we can’t imagine being any happier than we are with this child we have right now.”

Other Creating a Family resources you will enjoy:

Have you been told that you’ll get pregnant now that you’ve adopted? What do you say?


First published in 2014; Updated in 2016
Image credit:Philippe Put

28/09/2016 | by Dawn Davenport | Categories: Adoption, Adoption Blog, Blog, Infertility, Infertility Blog | 41 Comments

41 Responses to “Once You Adopt You’re Sure to Get Pregnant”

  1. Avatar E. N. says:

    My brother and his wife tried for a child 8 years. Then they adopted a son. Less then 10 months later they had a biological daughter.

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      Congratulations on your nephew and niece! Yes, sometimes it does happen that way.

      But I”m sure you can also understand how painful it is for a woman to hear that “advice” – and other “wisdom” from well-meaning but uninformed people around her, while she’s in the midst of her struggle.

  2. Avatar Sarah says:

    This misconception is so hurtful and annoying. I hated hearing it after we adopted our son. It took away from our joy as new parents when we were focused on our son. I’m one of the lucky ones who did get pregnant when my son was 9 months old, but it was a complete surprise. We never did testing or fertility treatments instead putting that money toward adoption fees. However, the odds of conceiving were likely even lower than before we adopted because we definitely have had less frequent sex with a baby in the house! I’m just about in my second trimester, and I’m not looking forward to the comments when people learn I’m pregnant.

    • Tracy Whitney Tracy Whitney says:

      First things first: Congratulations on both your adoption AND your pregnancy!

      Thank you for sharing how hard it has been to hear this said over and over. It is so often meant to be some sort of encouragement or “hope booster” but it too often lands as trite and hurts more than it helps. I hope you find room to celebrate BOTH and find a way to nicely (or maybe not so nicely?) navigate the things folks say when you do share your pregnancy news. After all, however you create your family deserves that honor and joy.

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  5. Avatar Aimee says:

    Coincidence and correlation are two different things. I even had my damn ob/gyn say this stupid crap to me about getting pregnant after we adopt – even though I don’t ovulate. We are going through our 6th and final attempt at DEIVF this month AND have been on the wait list for 2 years for international adoption, and told we now have 2-4 more years to wait because of what’s going on in the country (and we’re $50,000+ into both formats of family-building so we’re not changing agencies and spending even more…domestic would be $33K+). The inference that adoption will cure infertility is both ignorant and offensive. Should I stop DEIVF and hope that when I’m in my mid 40’s and the adoption finally goes through because of the stupid connection someone tried to twist into fact? Should I get a second mortgage on my home (surely that would be relaxing…) to afford domestic adoption because some idiot said that the “simple” act of adoption would make my ovaries start popping out good eggs again?

    And as a side note, adoption is effing hard. Anyone who acts like you just go to the agency and pick out a kid is out of their minds. Our struggle to build a family is real, and anyone who thinks their story of a friend who did X and got Y is helpful or appropriate needs to have their head examined.

  6. Avatar Shan says:

    Well my adoptive daughter is 16months and low and behold after years of fertility treatment I found out I am expecting .. 39yrs old I was content with my daughter and wallaa im still shocked

  7. Avatar Nikki says:

    While I certainly agree that adopted children should not be a means to achieving a “child of your own” (especially because I myself was adopted!) my experience has been very different. My mother conceived twice after adopting me unexpectedly, and a friend of mine endured SEVENTEEN (yes you read that right) miscarriages before adopting two children and ten conceiving and giving birth to a healthy baby girl.
    I googled this because I was interested in learning why people do end up getting pregnant after adoption but there doesn’t seem to be any research on the topic. I surmise that it may be in effort to prevent adopted children from being used in this way. Just my thoughts! 🙂

  8. Avatar Nikki says:

    There’s one thing about this article I’m not understanding. You said that 5% of rape victims are likely to get pregnant. And 20% of infertile women get pregnant. You seemed to be using this as a point to illustrate that stress does not correlate to infertility. Did I misread it or misunderstand somehow?

  9. Avatar Natalie says:

    While I don’t condone comments to that effect to those struggling with infertility, my own personal experiences with adoption and pregnancy does make me think there is some correlation. I was adopted in the early 1980’s after my parents suffered from unexplained fertility for 13 years. This is before fertility treatments and the medical advances we have today. 4 years later my mother conceived my sister (unexpectedly and completely unplanned).
    Now in my adult life, my husband and I struggled to conceive for 10 years. I was told in my early 20’s it would be very difficult if not impossible, but none the less we still tried. We tried drugs and IUI’s. IVF was too expensive for the risk of failure so we moved on to adoption. My son was born, and I unexpectedly found out I was pregnant when he was 15 months old. We were not trying as we just didn’t think it was possible. The difference is I was not focused on my fertility every month. I was focused on chasing a rambunctious baby boy. I was focused on family. My mental well being improved and I wasn’t stressed about losing time to be a mom.
    Talking to people and reading stories there are tons of anecdotal stories of precisely this, long term infertility issues, adoption and conceiving afterwards. There may not be a causal relationship, but in some cases I do believe in correlation. We are still at the infancy of understanding infertility, the factors that cause it (look at how many couples are diagnosed with unexplained infertility), and why infertility rates are on the rise.
    I would never tell someone if they adopt they will conceive because firstly it may not happen for them and that is a cruel promise. Additionally one should adopt because the want a child not as a treatment to get the child the want.

  10. Avatar Suzy says:

    I used to always say, “God intended for me to parent Stevie before Rachel was born.” It sets my teeth on edge more than any other comment. Now that they’re teenagers and there are adopted bookends, they just count the children, shake their heads and walk away. Or I get, “Well your hands are certainly full.”

  11. Avatar Michelle says:

    This makes me crazy. It happened to me. I adopted after years of unexplained miscarriages and then infertility. 5 months after we brought home our oldest, I found myself pregnant. And shockingly it stuck that time. It was a rough pregnancy with much medical care but I now have 2 girls who are 22 months apart. And everyone says “Oh that always happens. Adoption relaxed you.” Even my doctors said this while I was pregnant. And everyone would proceed to tell me the story of the person or people they knew that proved that “that always happens”.

    Our pediatrician (who works with a lot of internationally adopted children) said he had done some research and there was no statistically significant increase in pregnancy occurring after adoption. I don’t know if that is true or if he just saw me steeling myself for his comments when I was pregnant and in his office. True or not, I appreciated him saying it. And I used to repeat it to everyone who said it to me (implying that the years of infertility and miscarriages were my fault because I was too uptight). But at some point I got tired of trying to disprove this. Now I just smile and nod and say nothing. It is too exhausting to fight it.

  12. Avatar Mig says:

    Thank you for sharing this! I have been dealing with the emotions that arise from such ignorance more than ever lately. My husband and I are getting ready to announce our journey into adoption, and we have struggled with infertility for almost 7 yrs, but we have always wanted to adopt regardless of how or when we start a family. I was thinking about creating a video to share on Facebook so my friends & family can try to understand where we are coming from and why we don’t want to hear these comments, especially as we raise our adopted child, but I don’t want to seem defensive either. I just don’t know if I should keep putting up with them hurting my feelings just so I don’t hurt theirs. Do you have any suggestions?

    • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

      I suggest coming up with some canned responses to the comments you’ll likely get. For example, if told that you are sure to get pregnant after you adopt, you could respond: “That is actually a myth. People who adopt are statistically no more likely to conceive naturally than those who don’t adopt. While we would welcome a pregnancy, it isn’t our goal now–we just want to be great parents to this great child we are adopting. Hey, love your shoes. Were did you get them.”

  13. Avatar Melissa says:

    We’ve been talking about our plans to adopt for the past 2 years now and I’ve been pretty candid about my infertility. Even when I tell people that both my fallopian tubes are blocked and I have extremely low ovarian reserve, they still joke about how I’m going to get pregnant after we adopt. I’m starting to feel like a sex ed teacher at parties and family functions. One thing I didn’t expect about choosing adoption is that it would take so long for everyone else to catch up with the idea. They still see my inability to conceive as a loss while I see adoption as an unexpected but exciting opportunity. I mean women who give birth only have the baby’s sex as a surprise. We don’t know the age, sex, race or family that will come with our future kids. Or when they’ll arrive. I think that’s pretty exciting.

  14. Avatar Marie says:

    I conceived after adopting. Although “relaxing” might not make it more likely that conception will occur when a couple has sex, it might make it more likely that a couple will have sex more often, which would make it more likely that they will conceive.

    In all the many appointments we had (prior to adopting) with multiple fertility doctors, not a single time did any of them ask us how often we had sex. They didn’t look at some of the more obvious potential causes. I had a sister have the same experience….

  15. Avatar Marni Levin says:

    The few cases everyone hears of seems to perpetuate this myth.
    One woman we met while adopting our kids was already newly pregnant when she came to Ethiopia to adopt her little girl, though she didn’t know it until a few weeks later. She then compared herself to Sarah in the Bible who was amazed she was finally going to be a mother. She added that if it was a boy she would name him Isaac!

  16. Avatar Shian says:

    We waited to announce our surprise pregnancy after adopting because we weren’t ready to deal with this very comment. I have heard it much less than I expected. Most people are just happy for us to add to our family no matter how it happened.

  17. Avatar R.C. says:

    I hated the “just adopt and you’ll get pregnant” comments because they made my adopted children a means to an end. That really bothers me.

  18. Avatar Lonni says:

    Ugh! I got so perturbed at a co-worker just this week because she said this about another lady with whom we used to work. My co-worker, of course, told me how she knows several people who had adopted and then got pregnant. I tried to explain that while it does happen sometimes, it is not the norm. I think she saw me as being pessimistic more than anything else. Oh, well.

  19. Avatar Cindy says:

    Kristina, odds are the same (from what I’ve read) for people who stop treatment and adopt or don’t. I’ve had 3 friends stop treatment and get pg after yrs of failures. 1 adopted, 2 didn’t.

  20. Avatar Anon AP says:

    In addition to implying our daughter was a means to an end, it also implies that we somehow love her less than we would if we had a biological child. As if we would shrug her off as soon as that happened. Grrrrrrrrrr.

    I think it shows on my face these days though…someone said it to us this past weekend, looked at me, and then hurriedly added, “but she’s beautiful, and I’m sure your just so happy to be parents!” Gotta give ’em credit for the save on that one.

    We’re so happy for our by-all-apparent-measures-infertile friends who did become pregnant unexpectedly after adopting, but we all know it’s rare. They actually apologized for reinforcing the stereotype. hah! We forgave them. 😉

    • Avatar jeff wolff says:

      Hi Anon,
      Some people (as you know) can say things they know little about. They may think they have a different relationship than you do with their child. They are obviously wrong, and of course you already know that. Just so you know your choice to adopt is the greatest gift to another. Your remarks let me know you already know this but I just wanted to say it out loud. Being adopted, adopting another, and marrying an adopted gives me some perspective.
      Live it and Love it.

      • Dawn Davenport Dawn Davenport says:

        Yes, people often offer advice or say things where they have little real knowledge, and it seems that alternative methods of family building bring this out in spades.

  21. Avatar M.D. says:

    Kristina it took us 14 years of not using protection to finally get lucky lol!

  22. Avatar Kristina says:

    I’ve always thought it simply had to do w the passing of time. If the average adoption takes, what, a year or two to complete, and you’re having unprotected sex for that long, maybe the odds are more in your favor than u realize. It’s not like people stop having sex or start using protection while/after filling out their paperwork!

  23. Avatar A.T. says:

    I used to get so upset when people told me I would get pregnant after adopting. Then when it happened to me I received so many “I told you so’s.” We are just so grateful for our kids I try to not let it bother me, but sometimes I still give people a sassy retort:)

  24. Avatar M.D. says:

    I hear it all the time!!! Because we adopted our son from Vietnam in 2007 & I got pregnant with our daughter in 2010, its first thing people say when they find out, our daughter was a complete miracle as we had been told we would NEVER have a biological child but my explanation is that my mom died in March 2010 & I got pregnant in July 2010 & our baby is a gift from heaven

  25. Avatar Addie says:

    Thank you for this post!!

  26. Avatar Krista says:

    Heard it again just yesterday.

  27. Avatar Tammy says:

    The adoption worker said this to us I was shocked what a thing to say

  28. Avatar Cindy says:

    i start my list of reasons why i won’t. people usually don’t let me finish the list is so long…

  29. Avatar Melenia says:

    Drives me crazy when people say that . The percentage of that happening for most people are low.

  30. Avatar Heather says:

    This comment from people drives me crazy…

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