Updated March 2014
If you've decided you're ready to start a family, find out more about getting your pregnancy off to the best start.
How long does it take?
80% of couples conceive within a year.
90% of couples conceive within two years .
One in seven couples have some difficulty and may seek medical advice for conception.
If you've spent your adult life so far trying to avoid getting pregnant, it may come as a surprise that it might not be as easy as throwing away the condoms. A woman is fertile – able to get pregnant – for just a few days in each menstrual cycle after an egg is released from an ovary.
Having sex regularly throughout the cycle will maximise your chances of conception, but you can find out more about ovulation and your menstrual cycle in our About conception page. Use the links on the right to help you find out more about getting ready for pregnancy.
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Top tips for planning a pregnancy
Quit smoking Stopping smoking now will help your chances of conceiving, and protect your baby during pregnancy. Find out more about smoking and conception , and smoking and pregnancy.
Think about your weight You shouldn't try and lose weight during pregnancy, so if you're overweight now is a good time to manage your weight and get your body in the best possible condition.
Start taking folic acid now This will help to prevent a birth defect called spina bifida. You should take a 400mcg tablet each day until you are at least 12 weeks pregnant. A great way to get your folic acid intake and to plug any other gaps in your diet is to take multi-vitamins which are specially designed for pregnant women and those looking to conceive.
Keep a diary of your menstrual cycle. Some women know to the day when their period will start, but many women have less predictable cycles. Make a note of your first day of your periods. Your full cycle begins on this day until the next day you start to bleed. This will give you a good indication of how long your cycle is and you can work out when you might be ovulating.
Give your body time to adjust If you’ve stopped taking hormone contraceptives (the Pill) your periods may be a bit irregular for the first few months while your body adjusts to the change in hormone levels. See our advice on stopping contraception.
Go for a check up Check with your doctor that you have rubella immunity. This infection can cause serious harm to your unborn baby.
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Your fertility and trying for a baby
Learning about your menstrual cycle is essential before trying for a baby. You might be surprised how quickly you can tune into your body and recognise the days you are ovulating.
Also, don't forget that it takes two to make a baby, and male fertility concerns should not be forgotten.
Find out more about conception and male fertility.
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Help with fertility
It usually takes several months to conceive, but if you’ve been trying for about a year (or six months if you're over 35) without success then it’s probably a good time to see your GP, either with your partner or separately.
If you find that either of you are becoming stressed because you haven’t conceived yet, then make an appointment sooner. Worrying about conceiving is perfectly normal, but stress can seriously hinder your chances. Our FAQs on conception and male fertility may help you.
You can find more information on natural ways to conceive at www.fertilityuk.org , and on other means, including IVF, at www.fertilityfriends.co.uk.
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National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Fertility: assessment for people with fertility problems, London NICE, 2013
National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Routine antenatal care for healthy pregnant women, clinical guideline 62, London NICE, 2008
In this section
Ready to conceive
Infections and parasites
Conception and genetics
Finding out you're pregnant