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How to improve your fertility

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NHS Choices has lots of useful videos. Check out this one on how to eat healthily in pregnancy.

Want to improve your chances of conceiving and having a healthy, happy pregnancy? Here's how to get your body in the best shape for conception.

Check your weight

Being significantly over- or underweight can reduce your chances of conceiving. A healthy BMI is between 20 and 25 - try this healthy weight calculator to find yours.

If you fall outside the ideal range, try to lose or gain weight before conceiving. Underweight women are more likely to have irregular periods and, in severe cases, ovulation can stop altogether. There's also evidence to suggest heavier women have bigger babies, more complications during birth and are more likely to go past their due date, while underweight mums-to-be are more likely to have a low birth-weight baby.

Foods you need for good fertility

A healthy diet is essential to make sure you get enough of these vital vitamins:

Folic acid

If taken before conception and in very early pregnancy, it helps prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord. Find out more about the benefits of folic acid here.

B vitamins

Important for both ovulation and foetal development, these may boost your chances of getting pregnant if you've had difficulty conceiving.

Zinc

One for the men! It's needed to make the outer layer and tail of sperm, so a lack of zinc in a man's diet reduces his sperm count.

Vitamin C

And another! This antioxidant may improve sperm count and quality in men who smoke.

Foods to avoid for good fertility

Vitamin A

High doses of vitamin A can be harmful for your baby, so avoid eating liver and liver products, such as pâté, and taking supplements containing vitamin A or fish liver oils.

Fish

Avoid swordfish, shark and marlin and eat no more than two tuna steaks a week (about 140g cooked or 170g raw) or four medium-size cans of tuna a week (drained weight of about 140g per can). At high levels, the mercury in these fish can harm your unborn baby's developing nervous system.

Have lots of sex

Couples who have sex throughout the month are most likely to conceive quickly so the more you have, the better - and don't forget that sperm can live in your body for up to seven days. Want to work out when you're most fertile? Why not try an ovulation calculator or an ovulation kit?

Time to quit smoking and cut down on alcohol

Give up the cigarettes

If either you or your partner smokes, it's time to stop. Smoking almost doubles your risk of having a low birth-weight baby and can affect the quality of your partner's sperm. Find out more about smoking and pregnancy.

Stop drinking

Heavy drinkers should cut right down or preferably stop completely. Alcohol not only increases the chance of miscarriage, it also affects your baby's development and strips the body of essential B vitamins. Find out more about alcohol and pregnancy.

How long will it take to get pregnant?

This can depend on lots of things! For starters, you and your partner should both have a check-up with your GP. Normal fertile couples have around a 25 per cent chance of getting pregnant each cycle. Following on from that:

  • 60% of fertile couples get pregnant within six months
  • 75% within nine months
  • 80% within 12 months
  • 90% within 18 months.

So some couples will get pregnant in the first month of trying, while for others it may take a couple of years. If you've been trying for a year or more, see your GP, and if you're approaching 40, see a doctor after six months.

Could we be infertile?

As many as one in seven couples is infertile, but that doesn't mean you'll never have a baby. Many ‘infertile' couples go on to have children, but may need extra time or fertility treatment to conceive.

For more advice on what to consider when planning a baby, read our guide to getting pregnant.