It may seem obvious, but if you’re using contraception, you will need to stop using it in order to get pregnant. Most women find that their fertility returns to normal after stopping the contraceptive pill or having an implant removed, often immediately. However, if you’re using the progesterone-only injection, it could take longer – sometimes up to 12 months – you’re your fertility to return to normal. If you have any concerns or questions, see your GP.
It may also be worth having a chat with your GP at this point if you’re taking any other medicines or have a health condition.
Being underweight or overweight can cause serious problems when it comes to getting pregnant and pregnancy in general. Being underweight can stop ovulation altogether. Being obese or overweight can affect ovulation, as well as lead to complications during and after pregnancy, such as miscarriage, diabetes in pregnancy and infant heart defects. It’s important to lose any excess weight before getting pregnant. The best way to lose weight is to exercise regularly and follow a healthy, balanced diet. If in doubt, talk to your GP about what you can do.
Many foods have been championed as conception-boosting wonders from asparagus to tofu, but a more sensible approach is to follow a healthy, balanced diet. Try to eat a variety of foods including:
- plenty of fruit and vegetables — at least five portions per day
- starchy foods, such as bread, pasta, rice, or potatoes
- protein-rich foods, for example lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs, beans and lentils
- fibresuch as wholegrain bread, pasta or rice, fruit, and vegetables
- dairy foods containing calcium, for example, milk, cheese, and yoghurt
In addition to a healthy diet, doctors also suggest taking a daily supplement of Vitamin D (10 micrograms). You will also be advised to take a daily dose of folic acid while trying to conceive and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. This will help to lower the risk of your baby developing conditions such as spina bifida. You may need to take a higher than normal dose if you have certain health conditions or take certain medicines, for example to treat epilepsy.
Smoking is a big no no when it comes to pregnancy. Not only will smoking affect ovulation in women, it also lowers male sperm count and motility (sperms ability to ‘swim’ to the egg). Once pregnant, if you continue to smoke, you increase your risk of miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth or having a baby with a low birth weight. If you need help or support to quit, see your pharmacist or GP for advice.
Alcohol and pregnancy remains a controversial mix. It’s currently recommend that alcohol should be avoided altogether during pregnancy. Research has shown that alcohol can affect your unborn baby’s health and lead to serious complications such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD). It can also increase your risk of having a miscarriage.
While there’s a lot to consider when planning for pregnancy, don’t forget that this is a fun, exciting time! Be positive and confident about the changes you’re making to give you and your baby the best possible start.
Most couples will conceive within the first year of trying, approximately 17 in every 20 couples, so don’t worry if you don’t become pregnant straight away. However, if you haven’t conceived after a year of trying or have any specific concerns about your fertility, for example your age (mid-thirties and over), see your GP sooner.
- Pre-conception – advice and management. NICE Clinical Knowledge Summaries. cks.nice.org.uk, reviewed June 2012
- Pregnancy. Oxford Handbook of General Practice (3 ed.). Oxford Medicine Online. www.oxfordmedicine.com, published August 2010 (online version)
- Diet before and during pregnancy. Oxford Handbook of Nutrition and Dietetics (2 ed.). Oxford Medicine Online. www.oxfordmedicine.com, published January 2012 (online version)
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Reviewed by Kerry McKeagney, Bupa Health Information Team, February 2014.
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