Planning a Pregnancy and Fertility

When you decide to start trying for a baby, it can be a very exciting time. For some women, however, the process can be a stressful one.  

There may be concerns about age-related decline in fertility, family and cultural expectations or pressures, personal health concerns and expectations, overwhelming information from online and social media platforms, and even peer group pressures.  

We understand that these issues are important, but worrying about them is unlikely to be helpful, can confuse matters, and ruin the experience for you. Rather, focus on the actions that you need to take towards having a healthy pregnancy journey.  

We have put together some simple facts to remember when planning a pregnancy.  

Fertility Tips

Tip 1: Relax

Listen to your body and try to find time to re-charge. There are lots of simple things you can start doing, like going for walks, soaking in the bath, or listening to relaxing music, or reading. If you have access to the internet, there are lots of relaxation therapies, Yoga, Meditation accessible on-line or apps that you can download. Alternatively, just try something new! Make sure you’re getting enough sleep. The National Sleep Foundation recommends a minimum of 7 hours sleep for the average healthy adult.  

Tip 2: Have regular sex

Make sure you’re having regular unprotected sex, and by ‘regular’ we mean 2-3 times a week. The more sex you have, the greater your chances of success. Try not to obsess too much about monitoring temperatures and timing ovulation with indicator sticks. Studies show that about 84% of couples under 40 years old in the UK will conceive naturally within one year if they have regular, unprotected sex. By 2 years, 92% will conceive. By 3 years, this goes up to 93%.  

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Staying Healthy Whilst Trying to Conceive

Being in the best physical and mental health before your pregnancy is key to having a positive pregnancy experience. 

Here are some reminders on staying in tip top condition: 

Tip 1: Folic Acid

If you’re thinking of trying for a baby, start taking folic acidIt’s a vital B vitamin that helps with the development of the baby’s brain and spine. The recommended dose of folic acid is 400 micrograms (mcg) a day taken until 12w gestation.  

You will need a higher dose of 5mg taken once a day if you:  

  • Have a body mass index of more than 30 
  • Take medication for epilepsy
  • Have coeliac disease  
  • Have type 1 or type 2 diabetes  
  • Have a personal or family history of birth defects of the brain and spine  
  • Have had a pregnancy affected by a birth defect of the brain and spine  
  • Have certain blood disorders such as thalassaemia, thalassaemia trait, and sickle cell anaemia – with these blood disorders, 5mg of folic acid must be taken throughout pregnancy  

Tip 2: Cervical smears 

Get your cervical smear up-to-date before you are pregnant. It can be difficult to interpret cervical smears during pregnancy so they are not routinely done during this time. 

Tip 3: Smoking and Alcohol 

Smoking can be very harmful to your baby during pregnancy and cause problems with their blood supply and growth. It can also increase the risk of still birth, premature birth, and loss of a pregnancy. Speak to your doctor or your local pharmacist for help with stopping smoking.  

Remember, you stand a much better chance of a successful attempt with the right support. It is safe to take nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to help you stop smoking if you are planning to get pregnant and during pregnancy.  

No alcohol is advised if you are trying to get pregnant, particularly in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy as it is a very important time when the baby’s organs are developing. 

Alcohol can cause: 

  • Abnormal facial features 
  • Growth-related problems
  • Brain and nerve development problems

Tip 4: Medication 

If you take any prescribed or over-the-counter medication, we advise that you have a medication review with a doctor nice and early. Make sure you inform the doctor that you are trying to get pregnant so that they can advise you on the safety of the medication in pregnancy. You may need to change to a safer alternative, or delay your plans to get pregnant for a short while. 

Tip 5: Weight 

There is this misconception that if you are planning a pregnancy or you are pregnant, you need to ‘eat for two’ or ‘three’. This is not the case! You still need to have a healthy diet and maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can be harmful to a pregnancy.  

A body mass index of >30 can reduce your chances of getting pregnant, increases the risk of problems during pregnancy such as miscarriage, diabetes, high blood pressure in pregnancy, blood clots, infection, and loss of a pregnancy. It can affect the development of the spine and brain, as well as the overall growth of the baby. There may be a greater risk of complications during delivery with women more likely to have a caesarean section, or need assistance with instruments such as forceps or ventouse 

Conversely, being underweight, has its own risks. It can be more difficult to get pregnant and may increase the risk of a pre-term delivery, miscarriage, and having a baby with a low weight at birth.  

If you need help establishing a healthy weight, we advise that you speak to a health professional or why not contact Muriel, our nutritionist. See details on the website under ‘Services

Tip 6: Exercise

Exercise is recommended for your well-being and the well-being of your baby. If you already have a regular exercise routine, stick with it! Although contact or high impact sport and scuba diving should be avoided.  

If you don’t routinely exercise, why don’t you try some form of light exercise like walking, swimming, or jogging? If none of these appeal to you, then it might just be a good time to practice your pelvic floor exercises instead!  

Staying on Top of Your Health

Certain infections can be extremely harmful to a developing baby, such as Rubella and Varicella (that causes chickenpox or shingles). If you are unsure about having a vaccination against Rubella, or can’t recall ever having chickenpox or shingles, then speak to your doctor.  

The doctor can arrange for you to have a test to see if you have any protection against these infections, and arrange vaccination if you don’t. You will then need to wait at least 4 weeks after vaccination before you’re able to get pregnant.  

If you have a chronic medical condition such as epilepsy, diabetes, asthma, thyroid disease, a heart condition, a blood-related disorder, kidney disease, high blood pressure, a joint problem or mental health condition, speak to your doctor or specialist if you are planning to get pregnant. Often the condition itself and/or the treatment may affect the well-being of the baby.  

For these reasons, it’s important that you have the opportunity to discuss any potential risks and discuss ways to optimise your health prior to becoming pregnant. 

Conception rates

Over 80% of couples in the general population will conceive within 1 year if the woman is aged under 40 years and they do not use contraception and have regular sexual intercourse. Of those who do not conceive in the first year, about half will do so in the second year, with a cumulative pregnancy rate over 90%.


of couples will conceive by year 1


of couples will conceive by year 2

Investigations into fertility issues are not usually recommended or necessary if you’ve been trying for less than a year. There are couples who may be identified as being less likely to conceive, such as: 

  • Women with a known cause for reduced fertility e.g. known problems with the uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes  
  • Men who have known testicular problems or abnormal sperm  
  • Women undergoing medical treatments that can affect fertility (e.g. cancer treatment)  
  • Older women who are approaching menopause 

Other factors that can affect your ability to conceive: 


You should also note that even after stopping some forms of contraception, it can take some time for the body’s own hormone-producing factories to kick start back up again. This is more common with the Depot Provera injection, but can also occur with some forms of oral contraception, so don’t panic if you can’t get pregnant immediately after stopping your contraception.  


Infertility rates are twice as high in smokers compared to non-smokers. The toxic carcinogens in cigarettes can damage the egg and sperm, can affect hormone production, and obstruct the fallopian tubes, increasing the risk of having an ectopic pregnancy.  


Overweight increases the risk of having menstrual problems and reduces ovulation, so can affect your ability to get pregnant. 


Excessive alcohol consumption, and illicit drug use can affect fertility  

Speak to us about fertility

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Support for Fertility Issues

Problems trying to conceive can cause significant stress and anxiety. If you have any fertility concerns, speak to us here at the 2MeClinic. We’d love to hear from you. We can also refer you to a specialist fertility clinic of your choice.

NICE guidelines Antenatal care for uncomplicated pregnancies March 2008 Preconception care RCOG Emma’s diary

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