12 things to do when trying for a baby

These are the things you can do before pregnancy to make a difference to the health of your pregnancy and baby.

There are things you can do now before you try for a baby that will affect your fertility and the health of your baby.

Your health before pregnancy will affect the lifelong health of your baby. By following the advice below you can:

  • improve your fertility
  • protect your baby’s future health
  • bring down your risk of problems in pregnancy.

Once you start trying for a baby (have stopped contraception) you won't know you're pregnant for the first few weeks.

So, if you're trying for a baby, making these changes sooner rather than later will give you peace of mind when you get pregnant.

Are you ready to conceive? Check now with our online tool.

These are the things to do before pregnancy to make your pregnancy and baby healthier.

1. Get help to stop smoking

Smoking affects fertility (the ability to get pregnant) in men and women. If you stop smoking now it will improve your chances of conceiving. Smoking has also been shown to damage the DNA of your baby. During pregnancy smoking is the biggest risk factor for serious complications in pregnancy that you can change.

Get support to stop smoking. 

2. Start taking folic acid now

Folic acid needs to build up in your body to provide maximum protection for your baby against neural tube defects. Many women conceive within one month of trying so it is ideal to start taking folic acid two months before you stop contraception. If you have already stopped contraception, start taking a 400mcg folic acid supplement daily  until you are 12 weeks pregnant.

Some women may be prescribed 5mg of folic acid.

Find out more about folic acid

3. Eat well

You can improve your fertility by eating a healthy, balanced diet. The best foods include wholegrain, unsaturated fats and vegetable proteins such as lentils and beans.

Your diet before and during pregnancy will also affect your baby’s development in the womb and their health in the future. A healthy diet for pregnancy is the same as a healthy diet for life.

A dietitian can help if you have a condition that requires specific diets or nutritional requirements, such as diabetes.

Find out more about your diet, fertility and pregnancy.

4. Reduce your caffeine intake

Research shows that consuming too much caffeine while you are trying to conceive can increase the risk of miscarriage. The research shows that this applies to both women and men. Too much caffeine in pregnancy has also been shown to be harmful to the developing baby.

If you’re planning to conceive, you and your partner should consider   limiting your caffeine intake to 200mg a day.

You can use our caffeine calculator (link) to check your caffeine intake.

5. Try to maintain a healthy weight

Your BMI (Body Mass Index) is a measure that uses your height and weight to work out if your weight is healthy. The ideal BMI before conception is between 18.5 and 24.9.

Being overweight

Having a high BMI (over 25) can reduce your fertility and increases the risk of complications in pregnancy. Being overweight can also contribute to fertility problems in men (links to dad’s health).

If you have a very high BMI (over 30) you may feel like it is an impossible task to reach the healthy range and you may have been struggling with your weight your whole life. Try not to lose heart, bringing your BMI a few points down the scale can make a big difference.There is professional support available if you need it.

Find out more about being overweight and planning a pregnancy.

Being underweight

If your BMI is in the underweight range (18.5 or less) it may affect your fertility and cause health problems during pregnancy. It may help to put on weight gradually with a healthy diet. There are many reasons why a person may be underweight. You GP can give you help and advice.

Find out more about being underweight and planning a pregnancy

6. Stay active

Being active by doing regular, moderate exercise before and after you conceive will help your fertility as well as benefiting your pregnancy and baby in the long term. Women who are physically active are more likely to have children who are physically active too.

The Department of Health recommends:

  • at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity a week and
  • strength exercises on two or more days a week that work all the major muscles

Find out more about physical activity and planning a pregnancy.

7. Stop drinking alcohol 

Excessive or binge drinking is defined as regular consumption (drinking) of alcohol above recommended levels. Excessive drinking is linked to reduced fertility in both men (link to dad’s health) and women. 

Drinking alcohol in pregnancy increases the risk of complications. This is especially true during the first three months of pregnancy as this is when the baby’s brain is developing. You will not know when you are pregnant and that’s why the recommendation is that the safest thing to do is not drink any alcohol at all if you’re actively trying for a baby. It can be very difficult for some people to stop drinking alcohol. There are advice and treatment services available if you need support.

Find out more about alcohol and planning a pregnancy

8. Don’t take non-prescription, recreational drugs

Non-prescription, recreational drugs, such as cannabis or cocaine can contriibute to fertility problems for men and women. Illegal drugs can also cause serious complications in pregnancy. It can be very difficult for some people to stop taking drugs. There are advice and treatment services available if you need support.

Find out more about illegal drugs and getting pregnant

9. Have a cervical screening test

If you are aged between 25 and 49 you should have a cervical screening test every three years. It’s best to get tested before you get pregnant because pregnancy can make the results of your test harder to interpret.

If you’re planning a pregnancy contact your GP surgery to find out if your screening is due now or within the next year. 

Find out more about cervical screening tests.

10. Check you have had your MMR vaccination

MMR stands for Measles, Mumps, Rubella. Rubella is rare, but can be very dangerous to a baby’s development, especially during the early stages of pregnancy.

The MMR vaccination will protect you and your baby. It is normally given to children in two injections before they reach 6 years of age.

If you have not been vaccinated or are unsure whether you have been vaccinated call your GP practice to see if they have a record. If you have no record of them, make an appointment to get vaccinated. Even if you had them before getting them again is not harmful.

Find out more about MMR vaccinations.

11. Have a sexual health check-up if there’s a reason to believe you may have an STI

Sexually transmitted infections can affect your fertility, as well as any future pregnancy and baby.

If there is any reason to think you or your reproductive partner may have a STI, it’s important that you both get tested. The best places to go are a GUM clinic, sexual health clinic, your own doctor or a young people’s clinic.

Find out more about sexually transmitted infections and conception

12. Talk to your doctor about any pre-existing conditions, any medications you are taking or previous pregnancy complications

Talk to your GP or specialist healthcare professional if you are planning to conceive and have any known, long-term medical conditions for which you take medication, such as epilepsy, diabetes, asthma or mental health conditions.

Some conditions and the medications used to treat them may make it harder to get pregnant. There may also be some risks linked to your condition or the medication used to treat them and pregnancy.

It is important not to stop taking medication before talking to a doctor or specialist about your plans to conceive. They will talk you through the safest choices during pregnancy with you.

 

Sources

1. British Medical Associated (2014) Smoking and reproductive life; The impact of smoking on sexual, reproductive and child health, page 13

2. Clinical Knowledge Summaries (Aug 2017) Pre-conception advice and management https://cks.nice.org.uk/pre-conception-advice-and-management

3. Sue Macdonald, Gail Johnson, Mayes’ Midwifery. (Edinburgh: Baillir̈e Tindall Elsevier, 2017), p 312.

4. Fontana R and Della Toore S, The Deep Correlation between Energy Metabolism and Reproduction: A view on the effects of Nutrition for women fertility, Nutrients. 2016 Feb 11;8(2):87. doi: 10.3390/nu8020087 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26875986

5. Buck Louis, GM, et al, Lifestyle and pregnancy loss in a contemporary cohort of women recruited before conception: The LIFE Study, Fertility and Sterility www.fertstert.org/article/S0015-0282(16)30042-5/fulltext

6. Food Standards Agency Food additives (updates 9/01/2018) www.food.gov.uk/science/additives/energydrinks

7. NHS Choices (accessed 01/05/2018) How can I improve my chances of becoming a dad?,  Page last reviewed: 24/07/2017 Next review due: 24/07/2020 https://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/1909.aspx?CategoryID=61&SubCategoryID=613

8. Sue Macdonald and Gail Johnson Mayes’ Midwifery (Edinburgh: Baillir̈e Tindall Elsevier, 2017), p 267

9. NICE Guidelines (2010)  Weight management before, during and after pregnancy, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

10. Cleland V, Granados A, Crawford D, Winzenberg T, Ball K. Effectiveness of interventions to promote physical activity among socioeconomically disadvantaged women: a systematic review and meta‐analysis. Obesity Reviews. 2013;14(3):197-212.

11. Clinical Knowledge Summaries (Feb 2018) Alcohol – problem drinking  https://cks.nice.org.uk/alcohol-problem-drinking

12. NICE Guideline (2013) Fertility problems: assessment and treatment National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

13. NHS Choices (accessed 01/05/2018) Drinking alcohol while pregnant Page last reviewed: 14/01/2017 Next review due: 14/01/2017 https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/alcohol-medicines-drugs-pregnant/

14. The Royal College of obstetricians and gynaecologists (2018) Alcohol and pregnancy https://www.rcog.org.uk/en/patients/patient-leaflets/alcohol-and-pregnancy/

15. NHS Choices (accessed 01/04/2017) Can I have a cervical screening test during pregnancy? Page last reviewed: 20/04/2015 Next review due: 30/04/2018 www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/1646.aspx?CategoryID=69&SubCategoryID=697

16. NHS and Public Health England Thinking of getting pregnant? Make sure you’re protected against German measles  https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/675204/Thinking_of_getting_pregnant_GermanMeasles_A5booklet_2018.pdf

17. NICE (2015) Diabetes in pregnancy: management of diabetes and its complications from preconception to the postnatal period, NICE guideline, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

 

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Your stories of planning for pregnancy

  • Couple Amanda and Judd with daughter Shelbie

    Story

    I just knew that there were no guarantees for us when trying to conceive

    Amanda, 26, had irregular periods and she knew getting pregnant would be a challenge. She and her husband decided to become healthier when they were planning to have a baby. They now have a daughter called Shelbie.

  • Hayley, Sam and baby Amaryllis

    Story

    “One chance for a baby”

    Hayley, 27, and Sam, 28, a barista from Lincolnshire knew their health conditions would make conception a challenge. But they didn’t give up. Following fertility treatment, they now have a daughter, Amaryllis. This is their story.

  • Claire Gale

    Story

    “I knew I was ready to try again”

    Claire Gale, 30, and husband Mark, 32, from Bournemouth always wanted a family. Last year and 8 weeks into her pregnancy, Claire miscarried, but she trusted her body to tell her when it was time to try again for a baby.

  • Lauren with her baby Cherry

    Story

    Our emotional pregnancy journey

    Lauren, 33, from Essex, and her husband Victor, 33, struggled to conceive and endured a miscarriage and pre-eclampsia before they had their beautiful daughter Cherry.

    Last reviewed on June 13th, 2017. Next review date June 13th, 2020.

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    Comments

    Please note that these comments are monitored but not answered by Tommy’s. Please call your GP or maternity unit if you have concerns about your health or your baby’s health.
    • By Kaytie (not verified) on 23 Jun 2020 - 22:06

      We have had all the necessary tests, and I had a lap and dye and removal of endometrial deposits and we have no medical issues preventing conception , but still not pregnant .
      Any suggestions! .

    • By Aysha (not verified) on 2 Jun 2020 - 14:27

      Hey...I've been married for 5 months now and I have been trying to conceive but to no avail....help me Out

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 17 May 2020 - 12:41

      I'm 32 years and my husband is 42 years.we have been married for 5 years now. We want to concive.

    • By Reny (not verified) on 1 May 2020 - 08:34

      Have been married for 5months.i always get pregnancy symptoms but still my period will come.this month April my period was missed for 3days so I was expecting I was pregnant but it came the next day.any advice please.

    • By Reny (not verified) on 1 May 2020 - 08:33

      Have been married for 5months.i always get pregnancy symptoms but still my period will come.this month April my period was missed for 3days so I was expecting I was pregnant but it came the next day.any advice please.

    • By Emmy (not verified) on 26 Apr 2020 - 21:07

      I am 20 years i had sex 10 days before my period and i had it.i had sex again the next month and still i had my period what could be the problem?
      Please help

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 24 Apr 2020 - 12:21

      Please, am 28 and my husband is 31 but I had a fabriod operation in 2017 and am trying to convince but still am not able to can you help?

    • By Rubie (not verified) on 14 Apr 2020 - 04:33

      Hi, me and my boyfriend have been trying to get pregnant for about 2 months now and I don’t know if I’m pregnant or not. In the beginning I used the “morning pill” but after 3 times I stopped for good. I used it because I thought I wasn’t ready. We have been having sex constantly, i have no idea how to track my ovulation. I’m 20, he’s 30. Please help, I WANT TO GET PREGNANT!

    • By Victoria (not verified) on 18 May 2020 - 16:20

      Hi Rubie, if you look online there is lots of information about how to track your menstrual cycle and you can download cycle calendars. Typically you ovulate 14 days into your cycle (day 1 being the first day of your period) and you are fertile about for about 7 days (5 days leading up to ovulation and for 24hours after) but this can be different for everyone. So its helpful to track your periods and find out how long your cycles are and track trends there are lots of apps that can help with this, I use my Fitbit app. We are also trying so have been reading lots into this! Good luck x

    • By Eve (not verified) on 7 Jul 2020 - 12:56

      Try using the tracking app

    • By Mpho (not verified) on 10 Jul 2020 - 12:18

      I want a pregnant serious but am try to have sex with my husband but nothing happed and sometimes i feel to vommit but nothing changes

    • By Vivian (not verified) on 1 Apr 2020 - 02:13

      I have 2 kids and I want to conceive again I have been trying BT it failed what should be the problem please help me

    • By Fatima (not verified) on 23 Mar 2020 - 17:01

      I had a two months miscarriage can I conceive immediately my bleed stop?

    • By Ng (not verified) on 16 Mar 2020 - 12:11

      I had miscarriage 6 months ago and I been trying but no show

    • By Beatty (not verified) on 4 Jan 2020 - 09:19

      I have been married for almost 4 Year's now am yet to conceive. I was asked to go for hsg and was told both tubes are blocked hydrosalphinx and the doctor said I can only concieve through IVF . kindly advice please any other positive way to conceive. Am readily ready.

    • By Glory Solomon (not verified) on 31 Dec 2019 - 03:16

      I felt pregnancy sign over the month, added wait and lot of that but the test showed negative and I'm seeing this brown reddish blood. I'm confused, could I still be pregnant ?

    • By Taiwo (not verified) on 17 Dec 2019 - 22:42

      I have sex 3 days before my ovulation and 3 days after.I hope the 3days after cannot spoil my waiting joy thanks.

    • By nandu (not verified) on 3 Dec 2019 - 05:15

      how i get

    • By Teekay (not verified) on 15 Nov 2019 - 00:02

      I am 37 and my husband 38 , February I had an ectopic pregnancy at 6weeks& had my tube removed , after that I just had a miscarriage at 4W2D ..... is there a waiting period cause I feel like I want to try again . I am ready and my husband is ready too ,

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 19 Nov 2019 - 12:22

      Hi Teekay
      If your period has returned and you and your partner feel ready, and if your Dr has given you no reason that you should delay trying again, then it is perfectly safe to. Take care - all the best, Tommy's Midwife

    • By Francisca (not verified) on 16 Oct 2019 - 11:43

      I have been married for four months now and I want to conceive. I am suppose to get my period on the 13th of this month and today is 16th and has not come. I do get nauseous and dizzy for these few days. Could I be pregnant or wait for a while to check. Please I need help

    • By Brogen (not verified) on 5 Oct 2019 - 23:14

      Hi, I'm 18 and my boyfriend is 22 we have been trying for a baby for 6 months and nothing has happened. Any advice?

    • By Jasmine (not verified) on 13 May 2020 - 04:03

      Don’t stress it. That’s how I got pregnant but after I had my daughter. She is 3 months and half, I had a miscarriage 6 days before mother’s day

    • By Jess (not verified) on 4 Oct 2019 - 10:34

      Hi, I suffered with preeclampsia and placental abruption at 36wks which led to an emergency csection. My daughter is now 2 and a half and we have been trying for baby number 2 for ten months with no luck. I'm just wondering if placental abruption can cause problems with getting pregnant in the future? Thanks.

    • By Ester (not verified) on 26 Sep 2019 - 18:27

      Been trying for a few months know but no luck. I stoped the pill about 3 months ago. Also i just had monthly that was only 4 days that was light
      could i be pregnant?

    • By skholise (not verified) on 23 Sep 2019 - 13:27

      I want to concive I am 32 years

    • By Meg (not verified) on 22 May 2020 - 01:56

      32 here and started trying this month , no kids yet

    • By skholise (not verified) on 14 Sep 2019 - 13:24

      I want to concive I am 32 years

    • By skeptic (not verified) on 23 Aug 2019 - 01:39

      if drinking and smoking makes you less fertile then care to explain the chainsmoking alcoholic rednecks with 15 kids?

    • By Dada Oluwabunmi (not verified) on 21 Aug 2019 - 12:20

      Hi,I have miscarried 4 months ago have been trying to concive since then but all is fail.Also I do have serious menstral pain and is irregular period pls what is the solution

    • By HINA (not verified) on 19 Nov 2019 - 13:35

      I have miscarriage more time and my periods are irregular plz give me solution now I am trying but now brown discharge is coming tell me how can I know that I am pragnant or not

    • By Lou (not verified) on 18 Aug 2019 - 09:43

      Can i have some advice please.

      I had a termination in november 2018 at 4weeks as i had a lot going on with a poorly mum, poorly mother in law & renovating a house. Pregnancy was unplanned as was on the pill. Turns out the pill didn't work as had a sickness bug. I regret it deeply. Me and my partner now desperately want a baby and have been trying since february 2019 when i came off the pill but cant get pregnant. My cycles are regular at every 25/26 days. However the week before my period i get sharp shooting pain on right hand side of my belly, bruises all on my legs, bad cramps in stomach and look constantly bloated. Could this be a problem following termination? I don't drink alcohol, and am having 2 weekly acupuncture & taking daily woman's multivitamins. I have sex every other day following end of period so not to miss ovulation days. What am i doing wrong? Please help

    • By Caitlin (not verified) on 4 Aug 2019 - 22:36

      Hi I’m 21 and my partner is 22 We’ve had 2 misscarges one about a year ago was about 8 weeks and the 2nd one in December was 11 weeks Me and my partner have been trying again but has been about 7/8 months and still nothing is there something wrong ?

    • By Sandra (not verified) on 2 Aug 2019 - 11:49

      I am having an irregular menstral circle when do I ovulate?

    • By Temmy (not verified) on 15 Jul 2019 - 20:30

      Hi,
      Av been trying to get pregnant for more than 4years now and nothing is showing up
      D point is when ever I got pregnant it will show positive on test both blood and urine but scan will show Normal study and I will be morning sickness and all that before you know it i miscarried after 2month I will be cramping and abdominal discomfort and a big thing like a placenta will fall looking m too of fetus trying to grow and before u know it d pains will subside pls I need your suggestion

    • By Avanthi (not verified) on 14 Jun 2019 - 07:05

      My period date is 10 june when I'm ovulation plzz tell me

    • By Victoria (not verified) on 12 Jun 2019 - 23:56

      I have been menstrating for 1day
      for over a year I need help please what can I do

    • By Samantha (not verified) on 11 Jun 2019 - 16:48

      Hi. I had the implant for just under 3 years and I got it taken out 7 months ago. We have been having sex 5-6 times a week but nothing is happening.

      I am worried the implant has done something. What can I do?

      Thanks

    • By Kelechi (not verified) on 25 Jul 2019 - 15:38

      My case is the same as Her's, had an implant on my arm that is supposed to last for 3years but removed it at 2years and 2months,started seeing my menstruation have been trying to conceive since then is been 6months now, please what could be there problem. I need help urgently. Thanks

    • By taasha (not verified) on 10 Jun 2019 - 15:15

      I am 28 and my partner and I are trying to concieve...its been a struggle since I stopped with the depo injection in Dec and nothing
      Please advise me...

    • By ebere (not verified) on 7 Jun 2019 - 21:17

      my period was regular when will i start my ovulation

    • By Loretta george (not verified) on 13 May 2019 - 16:53

      Well see me and my husband are trying to have a baby I already have a daughter and she is fixing to be 26 and I'm 51 and he is fixing to be 56 when we have sex it hurts me what do I do

    • By Diana (not verified) on 9 May 2019 - 15:13

      I am 45 had a miss carage two years ago . I have been trying since and no success.

    • By Sophie (not verified) on 26 Apr 2019 - 18:16

      I had a stillborn at 30 weeks and it's been a month and we are waiting for results but I long for a baby so much more, when is best to try again? I had preeclampsia and a blood clot in placenta but still got to wait for post mortem

    • By Midwife @Tommys on 10 May 2019 - 15:45

      Dear Sophie,
      I am so sorry to hear about the loss of your baby. Often we suggest to wait until the results of the postmortem are back however it is your choice, when you feel physically and emotionally ready. If you would like to talk further then please do email us, [email protected]
      Best wishes, Tommy's midwife

    • By Trisha (not verified) on 20 May 2019 - 19:17

      Hi there I'm 48 an I'm tryin for a second baby could you please tell me when is my most fertile time of the month my period is due on 27th of each month when is the best time to get an conceive of you could let me know when I'm most fertile or ovulating many thanks

    • By Amanda (not verified) on 16 Apr 2019 - 14:30

      Hi dere I have unprotected sex the day after my last period and the other month I have my period for 7 days n one day after my period I have seen spotting of blood coming down but it's lighter than my nomal period blood n I'm started to feel sleepy n tired so I want to no if there is any chance I can get pregnant please help???

    • By Anonymous (not verified) on 22 Mar 2019 - 22:04

      “Many people conceive within 1 month of trying” and many women really DON’T conceive within 1 month of trying so please make this post realistic and don’t give people false hope!!!

    • By Queen (not verified) on 22 Mar 2019 - 18:22

      I had unprotected sex a day before my ovulation, is there any chance of me being pregnant?

    • By Nikey (not verified) on 21 Mar 2019 - 12:03

      Hello, really need help to know when would be a good time to try again for a baby. I learnt last week that i had a missed abortion. I was on week 11 of my second pregnancy. 4 days back i had ERCP and was advised a week rest. My doc sed to wait for 2 months. Does that means two cycles? Or can I try before my 2nd period? Also why is it important to wait?

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