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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, quitting smoking, alcohol and exercise.

There's also useful advice in the healthy eating and fitness sections of NHS Choices. This includes getting your 5 A DAY, losing weight, getting fit for free, and tips on healthy eating for vegetarians and vegans.

Folic acid

Women should take a 400 microgram (mcg) folic acid tablet every day while trying to get pregnant up until you're 12 weeks pregnant.

It reduces the risk of having a baby born with defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord, 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.

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.

But 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.

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

You should avoid getting pregnant for one month after having the MMR vaccination.

Be aware that the MMR vaccine isn't suitable for women who are already pregnant.

Your weight and fertility

Staying 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 body mass index (BMI) – or your partner's – is 30 or more as this means you're likely to have lower fertility.

Before you get pregnant, you can find out whether you're a healthy weight and get tailored advice with the BMI healthy weight calculator.

Speak to your GP or practice nurse if you need help or advice.

Medicines and drugs while trying

Some medicines can harm your baby if you take them while you're pregnant, while others are safe to take.

If either you or your partner take medication regularly, talk to your doctor about any possible effects on fertility or pregnancy.

Do this ideally before you start trying for a baby or as soon as you find out you're pregnant.

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 or the development of your baby if you're pregnant.

For friendly, confidential advice, contact:

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'll need some extra care during pregnancy.

Postnatal depression and postpartum 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 have an STI, it's important to get it diagnosed and treated before you get pregnant.

STIs can be passed on through unprotected sex with an infected person. 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're 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.

Talk to your GP if you're concerned. They 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 and how many caesareans you've had. Your GP, midwife or obstetrician will be able to advise you.

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

  • previously had a uterine rupture (a tear in the wall of your womb)
  • previously had significant uterine extension (stretching of the uterus)
  • previously had womb surgery
  • have a vertical scar on your uterus
  • have placenta praevia (where the neck of the uterus is blocked by the placenta) 

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

But if problems occur throughout labour, the midwife and obstetrician could advise that you have a caesarean section. This is because of the risk of complications that may arise as a result of previous scarring.

Cervical screening test

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

If you're asked to come for a routine smear test while you're pregnant, you should put it off until after your baby is born.

You should let your GP know you have delayed the test so you can be invited again. This appointment will usually be three months after your baby is due.

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: 02/08/2017

Next review due: 02/08/2020

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