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Pregnancy and baby

Planning another pregnancy

You can increase your chances of getting pregnant again if you – and your partner – are in good health.

A bad diet, smoking, drinking and unhealthy working conditions can affect the quality of sperm and prevent pregnancy happening. You should both make sure your lifestyle is as healthy as possible before you try to conceive.

This pregnancy and baby guide has more information for people trying to get pregnant, including tips on diet, smoking, alcohol and exercise.

There's also information for everyone – not specifically for people trying to get pregnant – in the healthy eating and fitness sections of NHS Choices. It includes getting your 5 A DAY, losing weight, getting fit for free, and how to have a healthy vegetarian diet.

Folic acid

Women should take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid from the time you start trying to conceive, right up until you are 12 weeks pregnant. It helps to reduce the risk of neural tube defects such as spina bifida. You can get these tablets from a supermarket or pharmacist.

It's also good to eat foods that contain this important vitamin. These include leafy green vegetables, and breakfast cereals and breads with added folic acid (it will say on the packaging).

You'll need a bigger dose of folic acid if:

Ask your GP for advice.

Rubella (german measles) and pregnancy

Rubella is rare nowadays in the UK thanks to the uptake of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination.

However, if you get the infection in early pregnancy, it can lead to serious birth defects and miscarriage.

If you're not sure whether you've had two doses of the MMR vaccine, ask your GP practice to check your vaccination history before trying for another baby.

If you haven't had both doses or there's no record available, you can have the vaccinations at your GP practice.

You should avoid getting pregnant for one month after having the MMR vaccination, which means you'll need a reliable method of contraception.

Your weight and fertility

Staying at a healthy weight can improve your chances of getting pregnant.

You may have put on weight during your last pregnancy – it's good to get back to your previous weight if you can.

This is particularly important if your BMI – or your partner's – is 30 or more. Both women and men who have a BMI of 30 or above are likely to have lower fertility.

Before you get pregnant, you can find out whether you are a healthy weight and get tailored advice with the BMI healthy weight calculator – but this calculator is not designed for use if you are already pregnant.

The best way to lose weight is by eating a balanced diet and doing regular exercise. Joining a slimming class with a friend or your partner may help encourage and support you. Speak to your doctor if you need help or advice.

Medicines and drugs while trying

Some medicines can harm your baby in pregnancy, while others are safe. If either you or your partner has a long-term illness or disability and needs to take medication regularly, talk to your doctor about any possible effects on fertility or pregnancy.

Check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist before you take any over-the-counter drugs.

See more about medicines in pregnancy.

Illegal drugs may affect your ability to conceive, and can also damage your baby's health. If you would like help and support, you can contact Frank, the drugs information line, on 0300 123 6600, or Narcotics Anonymous.

See more about illegal drugs in pregnancy.

Diabetes and epilepsy

Talk to your doctor before you try to get pregnant if you have diabetes or epilepsy. You will need some extra care during pregnancy.

See more about epilepsy and pregnancy.

Postnatal depression and puerperal psychosis

If you previously experienced postnatal depression or postpartum psychosis, talk to your doctor before you try to get pregnant.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

STIs can affect your health and your ability to get pregnant. If there's any chance you or your partner has an STI, it's important to get it diagnosed and treated before you get pregnant.

STIs can be passed on through sex with an infected person, especially if you don't use a condom. Some STIs can be passed on from one person to another without penetration.

HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C can also be passed on by sharing equipment for injecting drugs, such as needles.

If you are HIV positive, you can pass the virus on to your baby during pregnancy, at birth, or by breastfeeding. See living with HIV to find out more about pregnancy and HIV.

Work-related risks in pregnancy

At work, some people are exposed to X-rays, pesticides or other things that may affect their fertility. If you are concerned, talk to your GP, who can advise you about any possible risks to your fertility.

See work and pregnancy for more information.

Vaginal birth after caesarean section (VBAC)

Most women who have had a caesarean section can have a vaginal delivery with their next baby. It partly depends on why you had a caesarean section in the first place and how many caesareans you've had. Your GP, midwife or obstetrician will be able to advise you.

You will be advised to have a caesarean with your next baby if you have:

  • a vertical scar on your uterus
  • had a previous uterine rupture (a tear in the wall of your womb)
  • complicated scarring on your uterus

Most women who are advised to try for a vaginal delivery in subsequent pregnancies do have normal deliveries.

Cervical screening test

If you are due to have a cervical screening (smear) test, you should have this test before you try to get pregnant.

Finding it hard to get pregnant?

It can take a while to get pregnant the second or third time around, even if it happened very quickly the last time.

Find out the best time of the month to have sex if you want to get pregnant. If you're still not pregnant after a few months, talk to your doctor.

Page last reviewed: 01/10/2015

Next review due: 31/07/2017


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