From lifestyle changes, to when to seek support, we share our top ten tips for when you’re trying to conceive

Trying for a baby can be an exciting, but sometimes daunting, new life stage. We talk you through ten top tips for things you can do to help when you’re trying to conceive and what to do if you’re concerned.

1. Stop using contraception

Yes, it might sound obvious, but if you’ve been using contraception, depending on the type you’ve been using, it’s worth thinking about how best to approach this.

With barrier methods, such as condoms, or the contraceptive pill or patch, you can stop using these as soon as you decide you want to conceive.

For other methods, like the implant, intrauterine device (IUD) or intrauterine system (IUS), you’ll need to have them removed by a health care professional.  You can make an appointment to have this done at your GP surgery or sexual health clinic.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that different types of contraception can have different time frames within which your fertility will return to normal after you stop taking them. This can range from straight away with condoms, up to a year with the contraceptive injection. Speak to your GP or pharmacist to understand the time frames for the type you’ve been using.

If you want to start trying for a baby and you have a medical condition or you’re regularly taking prescribed medication, make sure you speak to your GP first so they can help you work out the next steps of your fertility journey. Don’t stop taking your medication without speaking to your GP.

2. Have sex at the right time

For couples where one partner has ovaries and the other has sperm, having sex at the right time during the menstrual cycle will improve your chances of becoming pregnant. Having sex every two to three days along with having sex on the day of ovulation, or in the days just before ovulation means you have a greater chance of conceiving.

Not sure how to keep track of ovulation? Try using ovulation tests to monitor when it happens.

3. Start taking folic acid

The NHS recommends taking a daily folic acid supplement while you’re trying for a baby, all the way up until you’re 12 weeks pregnant.

This is because folic acid reduces the risk of your baby having a neural tube defect, where the spinal cord doesn’t form properly, such as spina bifida.

For most people the recommended dose is 400 micrograms a day, however some people will be recommended a higher dose of 5 milligrams a day if they have a greater risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect, for instance if there’s a family history of neural tube defects. Speak to your GP if you think you might need a higher dose of folic acid.

4. Stop smoking

If you’re a smoker, it’s recommended that you stop smoking before you start trying for a baby. But if you have already started trying to conceive or you’re already pregnant it’s never too late to quit.

Smoking can negatively impact your fertility and can also cause harm to your unborn baby if you do become pregnant, so giving up is one of the most import things you can do when you’re trying to conceive.

It’s also important not to inhale second hand smoke, so ask your friends and family to avoid smoking around you.

Giving up smoking can be challenging, but there’s lots of help out there. Speak to your GP, your local Boots Pharmacy team or try the Boots Stop Smoking Service.* Check out our information and advice on stopping smoking to find out more.

5. Give up alcohol

Alcohol can have a negative impact on fertility in both men and women, so stopping drinking if you do drink alcohol is another important thing you can do when you’re trying to conceive.

Consuming alcohol can also have very serious risks if you do become pregnant, including an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth and low birth rate, so starting to avoid alcohol before pregnancy can help you to continue this if you do conceive.

We know it can be difficult, so if you need support to help you stop drinking alcohol, talk to your GP, or your local Boots Pharmacy Team.

6. Avoid recreational drugs

Many recreational drugs can have an impact on fertility, and in some cases make ovulation more difficult, so avoiding using them when you’re trying to conceive is important.

As with smoking and alcohol, recreational drugs can also seriously impact the health of your baby if you do conceive, so stopping before you conceive can help you to continue the good habit, too.

If you need help to stop taking recreational drugs, speak to your GP or your local Boots Pharmacy Team.

7. Reduce your caffeine consumption

Although there’s no proven link between caffeine and fertility, high caffeine consumption can increase the risk of miscarriage if you do become pregnant, so it’s recommended that you reduce your intake while you’re trying to conceive, too.

You can still enjoy caffeine, but it’s advised that you don’t drink more than 200mg per day (for instance one mug of filter coffee or two mugs of tea). Why not switch to herbal tea if you’re still craving a hot drink?

8. Maintain a healthy weight

Being either underweight, where you have a Body Mass Index (BMI) under 18.5, overweight (having a BMI over 25) or very overweight (having a BMI over 30) can impact your fertility, as well as leading to potential health problems if you do become pregnant. Aiming to maintain a healthy weight can help you as you try to conceive.

Lifestyle changes can help you to maintain a healthy weight, including:

Eating a healthy, balanced diet: that includes a mix of unsaturated fats, wholegrains, vegetables and protein

Staying active: doing regular, moderate exercise that you enjoy

Maintaining a healthy weight can be a challenge and may also be impacted by some existing health conditions. If you need support with maintaining a healthy weight, speak to your GP or your local Boots Pharmacy team for more advice.

9. Protect yourself against rubella

Although it doesn’t impact fertility, rubella could harm your baby if you do catch it during pregnancy. Protecting yourself against the infection by having the MMR vaccination is a helpful thing to consider before you start trying to conceive.

If you’re not sure whether you’ve received your MMR vaccine or not, you can check you vaccination record with your GP surgery.

If you haven’t received two doses of the MMR vaccine, or there isn’t a record available, you can make an appointment to get your vaccinations with your GP.

If you do need to get vaccinated, it’s recommended that you avoid getting pregnant for one month and your midwife can help you find a reliable form of contraception that works for you.

10. Have a cervical screening appointment

If you’re due to have a cervical screening, it’s recommended that you do this before you start trying to conceive as pregnancy can make it harder to get clear results.

If you do conceive, you won’t usually need a cervical screening appointment until 12 weeks after you’ve given birth.

You might still need a cervical screening whilst you’re pregnant if you’ve had an abnormal screening result before, but your GP or midwife will usually ask for this to be carried out during your first antenatal appointment.

When it’s recommended to speak to your GP

It’s important to remember that things may not happen instantly when you’re trying to conceive, which is very common for many couples.

Although some people get pregnant quickly, for others it can take longer. If you’ve been trying to conceive for a year, then it could be a good idea to speak to your GP to explore the reasons why it may be taking longer.

For women aged 36 and over, and anyone who already knows they have may fertility problems, it’s worth speaking to your GP sooner. Similarly, it’s advised you speak to your GP if you have a long-term health condition, a health condition you could pass to your baby, or you regularly take medication, so you can discuss any steps you need to take before trying to conceive.

Remember, you can always seek support from your GP or Boots Pharmacy team when trying to conceive, whether that’s to help you to implement any of the tips that may help you on your conception journey or to put your mind at ease over any questions you may have.

*If appropriate for you. Charges may apply.