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.
These are the things to do before pregnancy to make your pregnancy and baby healthier.
- If you smoke, quit smoking or cut down
- If you drink alcohol, stop or cut down
- If you take drugs, stop
- Start taking folic acid now, it needs time to build up in your body
- Have a healthy balanced diet – it improves fertility as well as affecting your baby’s future health
- Cut down on caffeine if you drink a lot
- Try to get closer to a healthy weight if you are overweight.
- Become more active if you are not already – this has been shown to improve fertility and will make your pregnancy and baby healthier
- Have a cervical screening test if you haven’t had one in the last three years
- Check that you have had the MMR vaccine against rubella
- Don’t take any new medication or stop taking existing medications without talking to your GP or healthcare professional
- Get tested for STIs if you think there’s a possibility you may have one
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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, 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, 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, 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.
ℹLast reviewed on June 13th, 2017. Next review date June 13th, 2020.
By Midwife @Tommys on 21 Mar 2019 - 12:09
Hi - Thank you for your message.
I am so sorry to hear of your miscarriage and hope you have been well cared for and supported during such a difficult time.
Your doctor will be able to advise you about any medical reasons to wait for a while, otherwise it’s up to you when you want to start trying again. Your doctor may suggest you wait until you have a normal period before you start trying again. The reason is your first menstrual period may be shorter or longer than normal, which could make it difficult to date the next pregnancy and cause you some unnecessary anxiety..
In some instances - such as molar or ectopic pregnancy, if you have an infection, or a late miscarriage - you should talk to your GP before you start trying again, who may advise you to wait.
If you’re being investigated for recurrent miscarriage, it’s a good idea to have all the facts to hand. Women with certain health problems may be prescribed medication to increase their chance of a healthy pregnancy.
Similalry, some couples feel they need some time to prepare themselves emotionally and physically for a new pregnancy. You may need to allow yourself time to grieve for your lost baby before you think about the future.
Other couples feel trying again will help them come to terms with what has happened.
It is an individual choice and one you need to make as a couple.
By Anonymous (not verified) on 21 Mar 2019 - 11:53
Hi I'm nearly 32 yrs old I want another baby it's going to be 3 of my babies but I'm scared I think I'm too old to get pregnant plz help
By Midwife @Tommys on 21 Mar 2019 - 12:11
Hi - Thank you for your message.
More than 8 out of 10 of couples where the woman is under 40 will get pregnant naturally within a year of having regular unprotected sex (having sex every 2 to 3 days without using contraception).
One study found that for couples having regular unprotected sex:
around 7 out of 10 women aged 30 will conceive within one year
around 6 out of 10 women aged 35 will conceive within one year
around 4 out of 10 women aged 40 will conceive within one year.
There are several causes for fertility problems, but sometimes an exact cause can’t be found. This is called ‘unexplained infertility’. Unexplained infertility is rare when the woman is in her 20s but becomes the most common cause of infertility in women over 35 years of age.
By Demi-Leigh (not verified) on 21 Mar 2019 - 11:34
My stumick has been so painful for so long I can't even sleep at night at all I am sitting in so much pain I want to cry I don't even want to eat at all I am tossing and turning and sitting up walking I even battle to walk its my stumick and my back that is very painful and cramps it feels like am going to cry.
By Midwife @Tommys on 21 Mar 2019 - 12:13
Hi - Thank you for your message.
If you are pregnant or think you may be pregnant and experiencing abdominal pain it is important you seek medical advice urgently. Please contact your maternity unit or your GP.
By By ceeda (not verified) on 19 Mar 2019 - 06:43
Hi me and my husband we are trying to conceive I left my depo injection on November I was meant to go back on the 28 January 2019 but I didn't I started spotting brown blood on the 29 January to 6 February and had unprotected sex. after four weeks the spotting brown blood started again and it took 6days and I still continued of having unprotected sex. When I took pregnancy test it comes negative. Please help.... Trying to conceive
By Brittany Vance (not verified) on 12 Mar 2019 - 01:47
I had period February 3 to February 26 the started back March 2 to March 8 I have had sex while bleeding and today it said my fertile was medium to high chance when will I get pregnant more ovaltion says to b on the 13 and on 16 I want new baby I have a 9 year when will I get pregnant yes we have unprotected sex everytime
By Nelly (not verified) on 18 Mar 2019 - 13:32
I want to conceive am doing my period what can I do now
By Donna (not verified) on 10 Mar 2019 - 22:05
I have been on the inplant for 3 years then the pill and then the injection i have been trying for 13 mounths to get preganant and nothing can any one give me advise
By Anonymous (not verified) on 21 Feb 2019 - 22:27
I had unprotected sex two days before my ovulation but I missed my period the day I was supposed to see it, I went for pregnancy test but the result was negative. Is there still a chance that I am pregnant or should I go for another test? Thanks you
By Maimunat (not verified) on 21 Feb 2019 - 16:16
Alo, am married now a year and seven months and i have not conceived and am following my calender i need your advice
By Shirley (not verified) on 12 Feb 2019 - 17:52
How can I tell if I'm going in early labor at 9 months
By Anonymous (not verified) on 24 Jan 2019 - 19:32
I️ had unprotected sex two days before I️ ovulated, and he ejaculated in me. Is there a good chance I’m pregnant?
By Midwife @Tommys on 25 Jan 2019 - 15:50
Yes there is a chance you could be pregnant. If your next period does not come when due, then we would suggest taking a test. Taking a test earlier than this make result in a false negative result. If you think you may be pregnant or if you are trying for a baby, then we would advise you to be taking a daily folic acid supplement if you are not already.
By Jane (not verified) on 21 Jan 2019 - 03:47
I've been trying to conceive for about 4 years now but still not pregnant.and also have a problem of period cycle sometimes I could take more than 5 month without menstruations.is it normal or what should i use?
By Midwife @Tommys on 25 Jan 2019 - 15:49
It sounds like you would benefit from a referral to a fertility specialist so they can carry out some tests and investigations to see if they can help you conceive.
By Help (not verified) on 29 Aug 2018 - 23:31
We have a 18 month old son together. He wasnt planned and was a shock.
We have been trying for a year now.
He was always away all week back weekends and now he's away 3 weeks at a time.
I'm getting worried we just won't be able to conceive another child.
I don't want our Son to be at school full time when it happens as want a nice closer gap.
I'm nearly 32
By ntomby (not verified) on 4 Jan 2020 - 15:00
I am 23 and my fiancé is 30 since 2017 we've been tying to have a baby but nothing yet. We even went to see a gyne....pls help me
By Martha (not verified) on 15 Mar 2018 - 23:01
Hi i had sex around my ovulation period for 2 cycles and i am still not pregnant. What would you advise.
By Midwife @Tommys on 16 Mar 2018 - 15:57
Thank you for your comment. I would advise that you keep trying; it may be an idea to use an ovulation predictor if you are not already using one.
It's also recommended to have regular sex throughout your cycle not just around ovulation as this is the best way to increase your chances of conception.
Also make sure you have a healthy diet, continue to exercise, stop smoking and drinking alcohol, limit caffeine intake, take folic acid supplements(400mcg a day) and maintain a healthy weight.
It may take a while to conceive but 80% of couples will do so within a year.
I have attached some links that you may find helpful
By Tanya (not verified) on 2 Feb 2018 - 20:18
Hi am 11 weeks and 5 days pregnant today when did my baby conceive please x
By Midwife @Tommys on 5 Feb 2018 - 10:00
Hi, Conception would be approximately between the 24th November and 3rd December 2017.
By Kate parrick (not verified) on 23 Jan 2018 - 21:14
I was exposed to a toxic chemical called Environtex Lite Pour On. Will this effect my fertility? I have been trying to conceive for 9 months and I had a miscarriage at 6 weeks back in October 2017
By Midwife @Tommys on 24 Jan 2018 - 14:31
Hi, Thank you for your comment.
We will be able to answer your questions in a bit more detail if you can send us an email with a few more details about your exposure and past medical history then we will be able to give more accurate advice. Please email the Tommy's Midwives on [email protected] . Many Thanks, Tommy's Midwives x
By Anonymous (not verified) on 26 Oct 2017 - 12:47
Hiya me and May partner have been trying to get pregnant just over a year now. I had an exctopic pregnancy a couple of years ago and I was worried about any damage it may have caused. I was told I am ovulating just fine still and to try not to worry too much. Have u any advice at all that may help me please
By Midwife @Tommys on 26 Oct 2017 - 15:25
Hi, Thank you for your comment.
Please feel reassured that it can take some couples up to a year to conceive but with your past medical history, it is understandable that you are feeling worried. As you have been trying to conceive for over a year it would be advisable that you and your partner make an appointment and speak to your GP, they will be able to offer your advice on what to do next, they may offer you tests or even make a referral to a specialist if this is needed. Please try not to worry, this can be normal for some couples but seeing the GP will help. Take Care, Tommy's Midwives x
By Anonymous (not verified) on 4 Oct 2017 - 03:46
myself and my husband being try for baby for about 7mouths now and we just want to no if we are doing it at the right time
By Midwife @Tommys on 4 Oct 2017 - 11:36
Hi, Thankyou for your comment.
It can be normal for it to take a few months to conceive when you have just started trying, this doesn't mean that there is anything wrong, it can just take some time. If you have a regular cycle and your periods are regular then on average a women would ovulate around day 14 of this cycle, so 14 days after the first day of your last period. If you want to work out these dates, we do have an ovulation calculator on the Tommy's website, where you can put the date of your period in and then it will tell you when you should be ovulating. Having sex around this time can optimise your success of conception, but also having unprotected sex throughout your cycle can help as well. If you are still not getting pregnant then then next step would be to see the GP who may refer you to a specialist for help and advice, this is nothing to be concerned about, it is just what we recommend after months of trying for a baby. Hope this helps, Tommy's Midwives x