Top tips for conception

If you've decided you're ready to start a family, find out more about getting your pregnancy off to the best start.

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. Find out more about ovulation and your menstrual cycle.

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.

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 

If you're overweight, now is a good time to manage your weight and get your body in the best possible shape for pregnancy. You shouldn't try to lose weight when you're pregnant.

If you're underweight, your chances of conceiving can be affected. Having too little body fat can disturb the production of oestrogen, which is essential for ovulation.

Not sure if you're overweight or underweight? Work out your body mass index (BMI).

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.

If you or your partner has a family history of neural tube defects, or if you are diabetic, then you may be advised to take 5mg of folic acid.

Find out more about folic acid

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.

Go digital

There are also apps available that can help you track your menstrual cycle and ovulation dates.

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

Now is a good time to have a general health check to see if there is anything that could help you mentally and physically prepare for pregnancy. You should also check with your doctor that you have rubella immunity, as this infection can cause serious harm to your unborn baby.

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.

Help with fertility

Read our FAQs on conception.

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.

You can find more information on natural ways to conceive at, and on other means, including IVF, at

Read our FAQs from dads


  1. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Fertility: assessment for people with fertility problems, London NICE, 2013
  2. National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, Routine antenatal care for healthy pregnant women, clinical guideline 62, London NICE, 2008


Hide details

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

Was this information useful?

Yes No


  • By Anonymous (not verified) on 7 Feb 2018 - 03:28

    Very useful

Add new comment