Prime health before Conceiving
After years of being careful not to become pregnant, it might seem strange abandoning the contraceptives and trying madly for a baby. Some people in this situation get pregnant at the drop of a hat but for others it takes a while before anything happens. While you're trying to conceive, it's important to look after yourself and check your diet.
Look for foods containing folic acid. Folic acid, a member of the vitamin B family, is important for a baby's development in the early weeks. It can be found in things like green vegetables, breakfast cereals and bread. You're also advised to take a folic acid supplement (0.4mgs daily)
Avoid soft cheeses, paté, and soft-boiled eggs, all of which may be contaminated with listeria, bacteria which cause food poisoning. Pregnant women are also advised to avoid eating liver and taking vitamin A tablets because of the possibility of consuming too much vitamin A which can be harmful to the head and facial features of a developing baby.
Try to stop smoking. Women who smoke during pregnancy have a greater risk of complications during labour and may have low weight babies. The nicotine you inhale is absorbed by your body and can make your baby's heart beat too fast. Carbon monoxide in cigarette smoke also affects the supply of oxygen in your blood to your baby.
Alcohol is another thing to limit. Aim for no more than one or two units once or twice a week. Bear in mind that half a pint of beer counts as one unit. A glass of wine is usually one unit but if you ask for a large glass in a pub, it is 125 mls and counts as 1.5 units.
Other things to consider:
* Rubella Have a German measles (Rubella) test before you try to get pregnant. Infection when you are pregnant can damage your baby, particularly in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.
* Inherited conditions Take advice if you know about hereditary problems in your family, such as sickle cell anaemia or thalassaemia.
* Sexual health If either you or your partner think you are at risk from a sexually transmitted infection (STI) go to a genitourinary medicine (GUM) clinic or to your GP. Untreated STI could be passed on to your baby.
* Medicines If you take medicines tell your doctor that you are trying for a baby. Some drugs, including street (illegal) drugs, may affect the baby. If you buy over-the-counter medicines, ask the pharmacist's advice.
* The Pill When you stop the Pill, have one normal period before trying to get pregnant. It helps to date the pregnancy more accurately. Don't worry if you get pregnant sooner - it will not harm the baby.
* X-rays Avoid X-rays if you think you might be pregnant or are trying for a baby. If it is essential to have an X-ray your doctor will advise you whether to go ahead.
* Toxoplasmosis Always wash your hands after handling raw meat, wear gloves when gardening and avoid changing cat litter. There is a risk of being infected with a parasite (toxoplasmosis) that can harm a developing baby.
* Exercise The more active and fit you are, the easier it will be for you to cope with pregnancy.
Your partner's health in the months before you conceive is also important. His health affects the number of sperm he produces and their quality.
Giving up smoking also applies to your partner. Men who smoke tend to produce fewer sperm and have more damaged sperm.
Regular heavy drinking can lower the number of sperm and may damage them.
Sperm are sensitive to heat. Avoid tight trousers and underwear made from synthetic material.
Don't worry if you don't get pregnant straight away. After six months of trying, six out of ten couples will have conceived a baby. For the other four couples it will take longer. If you've been trying for over a year to get pregnant, or you are over 35 and have been trying for six months, then it is worth seeing your doctor.