If you're ready to start trying for a baby, the obvious thing to do is to stop using birth control. Besides this, there's plenty you can do to both optimise your chances of conceiving and give a possible pregnancy the best start you can.
Know your cycle
If you’ve never really bothered to track your cycle then don’t assume that you have an average 28-day cycle. At the very least keep a record of your menstrual dates so that you can see how long a cycle you have and have an approximate idea of when you ovulate. If you invest the time to chart your waking temperature and other fertility signs, you’ll have a much better understanding of your cycle. You’ll be able to predict ovulation far more accurately, so you'll know when you've ovulated and you'll have another early indicator of pregnancy before it’s time to take a home test. If you do have problems conceiving then the more info you can give to your doctor about your cycle, the better. Find out more about your cycle.
The obvious advice for couples just starting off trying to conceive, and in no particular rush, is to have sex frequently, particularly in the first half of your cycle, and enjoy the novelty of not worrying about becoming pregnant.
If you’re keen to become pregnant as soon as possible, or you’ve been trying without success for several months, then you might want to chart your cycle in detail so that you can time intercourse for the days leading up to ovulation when other fertility signs are positive, such as your temperature, cervical mucus and cervical position. Find out more about charting.
If it’s already established that the man has a low sperm count then intercourse can be timed even more precisely to try to ensure that an optimal amount of sperm is delivered at the optimal time. With a low sperm count, leaving a couple of days between sex will give more time for sperm levels to rise again.
Get your weight in check
No, we don’t necessarily mean dieting. There’s evidence that women who are very over weight or very underweight can have problems conceiving and may have difficult pregnancies if they do conceive. If you fall into either one of these groups then you might want to consider either putting on some weight (not through hoovering up junk food!) or losing weight before thinking about trying to conceive.
Watch your diet
The better condition your body is in, the better chance you have of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy. At the very least make sure that you are taking a folic acid supplement every day. Try to cut down on fast food and other empty calories and get a well-balanced, varied diet.
Getting fit is part and parcel of being healthy to conceive and stay pregnant. If you’re not currently exercising at all then try to introduce exercise slowly, building up to three or four sessions of at least 20 minutes each week. Find out more about getting fit for conception.
Cut out toxins
Alcohol, smoking and other drugs can all affect fertility and many could damage the foetus if you do become pregnant. If you’re a smoker or take recreational drugs, try to stop completely and if you know you drink a little more than you should then try to cut back, particularly in the second half of your cycle. We're not saying you shouldn't drink at all when you're trying to conceive though, plenty of babies have been made with a little help from alcohol, and if a glass of wine helps you relax and enjoy sex then so be it.
If you use any prescription or herbal drugs you should discuss these with your doctor before you start trying to conceive.
Encourage your partner to be healthy
It takes two to make a baby and your partner’s health is important in creating the healthy sperm needed for a successful pregnancy. Alcohol and smoking can interfere with healthy sperm production, so it’s a good idea for your partner to cut down or quit.
Sperm also don’t like being too warm, so tight underwear, hot baths and saunas are not a good idea. If your partner is a cyclist he might also want to consider cutting back on his time in the saddle, particularly if a low sperm count has already been established.
When you’re busy trying to prepare your body and optimise the chances for conception it’s easy to become obsessive, which can take the joy out of sex and make both partners stressed. And stress is not conducive to conception! Try to make changes to your diet and fitness levels into a normal part of your everyday routine that will improve your life all-round, rather than only associating them with having a baby. And try some relaxation techniques.
If you’ve started out charting with a view to conceive then think of it as a good way to get to know your body, not just for aiding conception, but perhaps being useful to prevent conception later on. And if you are timing intercourse to achieve conception then take a month or two off every now and then to remind yourselves that sex isn’t just about making babies.