When you’ve spent most of your adult life trying not to get pregnant, it can come as a shock to discover that actually getting pregnant isn’t always as easy as just ditching your contraception.
There are only a few days in each monthly cycle when a woman is fertile and able to get pregnant. You only get a baby when a sperm meets an egg and an egg usually only comes along once a month (ovulation). This egg survives for just one or two days. So, there is a small time each month when you can actually get pregnant.
It’s difficult to pinpoint exactly when ovulation happens, unless you’re practicing natural family planning as a method of contraception. However, ovulation normally happens about two weeks before your next expected period.
Preparing for pregnancy
There are lots of things you can do to improve your chances of getting pregnant:
- Stop smoking. Smokers take longer to conceive than non-smokers and are more likely to have fertility problems. Find information on smoking and how to quit.
- Cut out or cut down your alcohol. Heavy drinking can affect fertility, increasing the length of time it takes to get pregnant and reducing the chances of having a healthy baby. Find out how to manage your drinking
- Stop using illegal drugs. Illegal drugs like marijuana and cocaine can seriously affect fertility and your chances of a healthy pregnancy. For more information on illegal drugs
- Manage your weight. Being overweight or underweight (especially significantly so) can affect your chances of getting pregnant. Healthy eating and regular exercise can boost your fertility but you shouldn’t try and lose weight during pregnancy. Learn how to manage your weight
- Take folic acid. This helps to prevent a birth defect called spina bifida. You should take a 400mcg tablet daily as soon as you’ve decided you want to start trying for a baby and continue until you are at least 12 weeks pregnant
- Start a diary of your menstrual cycle. This will make it easier to predict when you’re ovulating (releasing an egg) and how long your cycle is. Make a note of your first day of your period (when you start to bleed). Your full cycle begins on this day until the next day you start to bleed
- Relax. Stress is another factor contributing to infertility. When we get stressed, we release a hormone called adrenalin. This signals to our body that conditions are not ideal for conception
Waiting to get pregnant
It usually takes several months to get pregnant so don’t worry if it’s taking longer than you expected. If you’ve been trying unsuccessfully for a year or more through regular unprotected sex, it’s probably a good time to see your GP, either with your partner or separately.
However If you’re a woman over 35, or if you think that yourself or your partner may have a fertility problem, you might want to go sooner and see your GP after six months of trying.
- NHS Choices has lots of information on fertility and conception (getting pregnant)
- The FPA has a wealth of information on planning a pregnancy as well as information on fertility awareness as a method of contraception as well as getting pregnant
- Your Fertility is an Australian website by the Fertility Coalition which has lots of information and advice on fertility, notably the five key factors that affect getting pregnant and having a healthy baby: age, smoking, weight, alcohol and, timing of sex