Your chances of becoming pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy and baby are better if you and your partner are as fit and healthy as possible.
Before you try for a baby there are some things to consider that can help improve your chances of getting pregnant and having a healthy pregnancy.
What you eat, how much you exercise, and whether you smoke or drink alcohol are all important factors to look at.
Your doctor, nurse or midwife will also be able to advise you on pre-pregnancy and pregnancy healthcare.
Deciding to have a baby can sometimes feel like a frightening decision, but it can also be an enjoyable and exciting time. Try not to feel overwhelmed by the amount of information there is for people who are trying to get pregnant.
For most people, getting pregnant isn't a difficult process. Much of the information we talk about here is simple advice about getting to know your body, eating well, keeping fit, and talking to your doctor, nurse or midwife when you need to.
For some, getting pregnant happens very quickly, but for others it can take longer. This can be upsetting, but it is normal.
In every 100 couples trying for a baby, around 80–90 will conceive within 1 year.
Around 10–20 will take longer or may need help to get pregnant.
Talk to your doctor about how your pregnancy might be affected if:
- you have any medical condition such as diabetes or epilepsy
- you have a history of heart or circulatory problems, such as high blood pressure or thrombosis (blood clots)
- you or your partner have any hereditary conditions in the family such as sickle cell anaemia, thalassaemia, cystic fibrosis or muscular dystrophy
- you have gynaecological problems, such as endometriosis, polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), or have had an ectopic pregnancy (when the fertilised egg implants outside the uterus (womb), often in the fallopian tube).
Your doctor can also talk to you about genetic counselling if you or your partner have an inherited condition.
If you or your partner have disabilities which may make it harder for you to get pregnant, you may need specialist help. Your doctor will be able to refer you to a specialist.
If you have a disability and become pregnant, it's important that you speak to your doctor as soon as possible. If you're being seen by a consultant for your disability you may require specialist advice. You can also request that your maternity care is carried out at the same hospital where your consultant is based. Ask your doctor about this.
For more information on pregnancy and planning a pregnancy if you have a disability, Disability, Pregnancy and Parenthood have a range of publications available from www.disabledparent.org.uk
If you take medicines for any reason tell your doctor that you're planning to get pregnant as some drugs may affect the developing baby. Don’t stop any medication you're taking for a medical condition until you talk with your doctor, as this may affect your health.
If you buy any medicines from a pharmacy, always check with the pharmacist to see if these are safe to take while trying for a baby or when pregnant. Avoid any treatment which isn't essential.
If you use any herbal or alternative remedies or complementary therapies, check whether these are safe to use during pregnancy, or while trying to get pregnant. Ask your doctor, nurse, midwife or pharmacist.
Recreational (illegal) drugs, also known as street drugs, can affect the developing baby. Avoid taking them when you're trying to get pregnant or once you are pregnant. Male partners should avoid using them too as they can affect sperm.
For information on recreational drugs and where to go for help and advice contact Frank (tel: 0300 123 6600; www.talktofrank.com).
If either you or your partner think you might have a sexually transmitted infection, or be at risk of getting an infection, you can get confidential advice and help from a genitourinary medicine (GUM) or sexual health clinic or your general practice.
Some sexually transmitted infections can affect your chances of getting pregnant, and if not treated they can be passed on to your baby during pregnancy or birth.
If you or your partner have a sexual problem, a counsellor who is specially trained in this area may be able to help you. Talk to your doctor, nurse or midwife, or contact Relate.
Rubella (also known as german measles), can harm your baby if you catch it when you're pregnant. See NHS Choices for more information about rubella in pregnancy.
Rubella is rare in the UK due to the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination but it's a good idea to check whether you're protected before you get pregnant.
If you haven't been vaccinated against rubella, or you're not sure, you can ask your GP practice to check. If you haven't been vaccinated or there's no record available, a doctor or nurse can give you two doses of the MMR vaccine.
You should have the MMR vaccine at least one month before you start trying to get pregnant. It's not suitable if you're already pregnant.
Once you decide to plan a pregnancy, you'll need to think about stopping the contraception you've been using.
Many women worry that some methods of contraception, such as the pill, injection or IUD, will make it difficult to get pregnant when they stop using them. No method of reversible contraception causes infertility.
When you stop using contraception your periods and fertility will return to normal.
If you use the contraceptive injection, your periods and fertility may take longer to return to normal than after other methods of contraception.
Don’t worry if you get pregnant very soon after stopping hormonal contraception, this won't harm the baby.
To find out more information about stopping any method of contraception, you can:
- look at our contraception information
- ask a doctor or practice nurse at your general practice
- ask a contraception clinic
- ask a young people’s service (there will be an upper age limit).
Think about what you eat. Eating a variety of foods, with as much fresh food as possible, helps to ensure that you get all the vitamins and minerals you need. A healthy diet is made up of:
- at least five portions of fruit and vegetables a day (these can be fresh, dried, frozen, tinned or juiced)
- starchy foods, such as potatoes, sweet potatoes, bread, pasta, rice and cereals
- protein foods, such as beans, pulses (for example, lentils), fish, eggs, meat (avoid liver), chicken and nuts
- dairy foods, such as milk, yoghurt and cheese, or dairy-alternatives.
See Pregnant or trying to get pregnant: foods to avoid for advice on foods to avoid when you're pregnant.
See the NHS Eatwell Guide for general help with healthy eating.
Medical advice for all women planning a pregnancy is to take a daily supplement of folic acid. You should take 0.4mg (400 micrograms) of folic acid from the time you stop contraception, or as soon as you find out you are pregnant, until week 12 of pregnancy.
Folic acid is a member of the vitamin B family and is needed for a baby’s development in the early weeks of pregnancy. It helps to prevent serious abnormalities of the brain and nerves (such as spina bifida). You can buy folic acid from the pharmacy or you may be given this on prescription from your doctor.
If you've had a previous pregnancy affected by spina bifida, or you or your partner have a neural tube defect, or you suffer from epilepsy or diabetes, you should take a higher dose of folic acid. Your doctor will advise you.
As well as taking a supplement, you can eat foods that contain folic acid, such as green leafy vegetables, and breads and cereals with added folic acid.
This website can only give you general information. Our information about planning a pregnancy is based on evidence-guided research from the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence.
Contact your doctor, practice nurse or a contraception clinic if you're worried or unsure about anything.