Tips on how to prepare for pregnancy and advice on conceiving

If youre trying for a baby there are things you can do to help ensure you have a safe and comfortable pregnancy – and that your child is healthy.

General health

Take regular, moderate exercise so that your body is in good shape for pregnancy and you have plenty of energy and stamina for labour and caring for a baby.

Follow a healthy, balanced diet by trying to eat:

  • plenty of fruit and vegetables (this can include fresh, frozen, tinned, dried produce, or a glass of juice)- aim for at least five portions a day
  • plenty of starchy foods such as bread, pasta, rice and potatoes (choose wholegrain options where you can)
  • protein-rich food such as lean meat, chicken, fish, eggs and pulses (beans and lentils)
  • dairy foods such as milk, cheese and yoghurt, which contain calcium

You should try to avoid:

  • processed foods and foods that are high in fats and sugar
  • a high caffeine intake – even two cups of coffee a day can make it harder to conceive

Alcohol intake – what to do

Drinking even moderate amounts of alcohol can harm your chances of conceiving.

This applies to both men and women, so if you are having trouble conceiving you should cut out alcohol for a while and see if it helps.

Stop smoking as soon as you start trying

Smoking also significantly lowers your chances of getting pregnant, increases your chance of miscarriage and, if you continue to smoke during pregnancy, your baby may be harmed.

Recreational drugs

The use of recreational and illegal drugs can put your baby at risk of miscarriage, premature birth and poor development.

Don’t take any drugs during your pregnancy or in the month prior to conception.

If you are on the pill

If your pregnancy is planned and you’re on the pill, it’s best to wait three months after stopping before trying to conceive – this will reduce the risk of miscarriage.

Your doctor can advise on other forms of contraception.

Folic acid

Take a multivitamin with 400 micrograms of folic acid every day for a month before conception, and also throughout early pregnancy, as part of your healthy diet.

Folic acid has been shown to reduce the risk of neural tube defects of the brain and spinal cord (such as spina bifida) in unborn children.

If there’s a family history of spina bifida, or you are taking medication for epilepsy, are diabetic or have coeliac disease, speak to your doctor (who may suggest you increase the dose to five milligrams daily).