Conception - things to do
- Take a 400mcg folic acid supplement every day.
- Avoid alcohol and ask your partner to cut down too.
- Stop smoking and ask your partner to give up or cut down as well.
- Start exercising, if you don't already. Exercise during pregnancy will help blood and oxygen flow to your baby, which is great for growth and development.
- If you are overweight or obese now is the time to see if you can lose some weight with a healthy diet and exercise. Obesity increases the risk of pregnancy problems.
It may be tempting to live it up a little before the hard work of pregnancy, but getting yourself into shape beforehand will improve your chances of a healthy pregnancy for both you and your baby.
It's worth bearing in mind, too, that you won't know you're pregnant for the first few weeks, so if you're trying for a baby, think about making lifestyle changes sooner rather than later.
While you are trying to conceive, you might need to make some changes to your diet and eating habits.
A healthy diet will not only improve your chances of conceiving but also help your body prepare for the demands of pregnancy.
It's not just cutting out the junk. There are some important things you need to know about which foods are good for you and your baby, and which foods you should avoid altogether.
If you are overweight or underweight it can affect your fertility. You should try to achieve a healthy weight before trying to conceive. Aim to follow a healthy, balanced eating plan.
If you have any concerns about your weight you should talk to your GP, who can advise you about your specific needs.
Find out more about how your weight affects fertility in our Conception FAQs.
See our diet and nutrition in pregnancy page for more information.
Being fit and healthy is an advantage if you're thinking about starting or adding to your family.
Pregnancy puts a lot of strain on the body. You will find it easier to cope with if you have the correct balance of muscular strength and flexibility.
Being in good shape can also help you conceive in the first place. The body works more efficiently when you are fit, and having a toned body usually makes you feel more confident about yourself.
How active should you be?
The government recommends that everyone does 30 minutes of moderate exercise five times a week. You don't need to go to the gym, even fast walking is enough.
If you haven’t done much regular exercise before start with 15 minutes of continuous exercise three times a week.
Then you can increase that bit by bit to 30-minute sessions four times a week and then to daily exercise. Whatever exercise you choose, it should be enough to increase your heart and breathing rates, but you should still be able to have a conversation.
You can continue to exercise while pregnant. Just listen to your body and don't overdo things.
- If you continue to smoke while trying for a baby you can harm your chances of conceiving.
- Smoking can damage men’s sperm and lower the number and quality of their sperm.
- Smoking affects the lining of the womb and causes problems with implantation, increasing the risk of miscarriage.
- Smoking causes women to suffer from premature ovarian ageing – women who smoke have an earlier menopause by up to four years.
- Smokers require twice the number of IVF cycles to help them conceive than non-smokers.
Smoking during pregnancy has serious effects on mother and baby.
Quitting now will make a big difference to your health before and during your pregnancy and once the baby is born.
The NHS, your GP or midwife can all help you give up and will put you in touch with experts who can advise you.
You don’t have to stop having fun now that you’re trying for a baby, but there are a few things you should give up or cut down on, and alcohol is one of them.
The safest level of alcohol to drink during pregnancy is inconclusive. Therefore, the safest option is to avoid alcohol whilst trying to conceive.
If you do choose to drink though, limit yourself to one or two units of alcohol once or twice a week. For more information, including how to get help cutting down on alcohol, see our alcohol and pregnancy page.
Coffee, tea, chocolate, energy drinks and soft drinks all contain caffeine. There's research to show that high levels of caffeine in pregnancy can lead to low birth weight and in some cases, miscarriage. You should limit your intake to 200mg a day (about two cups of instant coffee).
Herbal medicines and teas
Don’t assume all herbal products are safe to take during pregnancy. Regular fruit teas from the supermarket are fine but double check with a qualified herbalist if you want to take a different herbal product.
Many common medicines such as cough and cold remedies are not safe to take in pregnancy. If the packaging is not clear, then check with the pharmacist or your GP.
Don’t suddenly stop taking prescribed medicines. Make an appointment to see your doctor to discuss whether the drugs you are taking are safe to take when trying for a baby or during pregnancy.
Recreational and illegal drugs
When trying for a baby, you should give up illegal drugs completely. Drugs such as cannabis can affect your fertility.
If stopping or cutting down on drugs is likely to be difficult for you or your partner, consider getting some help.
- NICE (2008) Antenatal care: routine care for healthy pregnant women, London National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, , 2008
- RCOG (2006) Exercise in pregnancy, Statement number 4, London Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, 2006
ℹLast reviewed on June 13th, 2017. Next review date June 13th, 2020.