Find out, ask questions and even talk to other would-be parents all about pregnancy and having a baby long before you might want to share your hopes with friends or family. Online, you can go straight to the articles that will help you most at any stage of pre-conception and conception.
(And of course you are very welcome to keep coming back once you are pregnant and when you're a new parent!)
If you have just started thinking about having a baby:
For many couples, the news that they are expecting a baby will come as a surprise (!), but for most parents-to-be, the decision has been made that they have reached a phase in their relationship where they want to have a child.
It's probably a question you are already mulling over, but it's worth reading Are You Ready for a Baby? and going through the checklist of important factors in making this exciting life decision.
If you are using contraception you need to think about when you are going to stop using it. If you usually use condoms there is no need to change your habits until you are ready to start having unprotected sex, but if you are using the pill you should think about coming off it and giving your body a chance to adjust before trying for a baby. Some women can find that it takes a while for their bodies to adjust, but this is not necessarily the case, and you should continue to use condoms during sex until you are absolutely ready to start trying to conceive rather than presuming that the pill is still 'in your system'.
It is also worth thinking about your sexual health. Conditions like chlamydia are not always obvious to spot but can have a serious affect on your chances of conceiving or could harm your pregnancy. If you have any concerns, see your GP, who can arrange for easy, routine tests.
If you read the TTC (Trying to Conceive) Forum threads you'll soon see that women of all shapes and sizes, backgrounds and situations get very happily pregnant. However, there are a few things you can do help maximise your chances of getting pregnant sooner and of having a healthier pregnancy.
You don't have to be an Olympic athlete to get pregnant, but it's worth reading Are you Fit to Conceive? to get into the right 'body' frame of mind. And wannabe dads – this is true for men too.
Also, think about your diet as it's becoming a popular train of thought that good diet can enhance your chances of getting pregnant, help you through a healthier pregnancy, and help give your baby the best start to life. Again, there is a lot that can be done to address the would-be dads' diet too!
The one important priority you should definitely make is to start taking a supplement of folic acid now. Folic acid is proven to drastically reduce the incidence of neural tube defects and a study published in 2008 suggested that taking it for as long as a year before pregnancy might also decrease the risk of a premature birth. Ideally, take a folic acid supplement for three to six months before you start trying for a baby. (If you are diabetic, have a gluten intolerance, are on anti-epilepsy medication, or have a history of neural tube defects in your immediate family, talk to your GP, who might suggest a large regular dose of folic acid by prescription.) Men should also think about supplements. Zinc, for example, is a valuable mineral for men when you are trying to conceive.
And finally, while there is a good public awareness around cutting out smoking once a woman is pregnant, it is worth knowing about the value of stopping smoking at the conception stage.
If you are ready to start trying for a baby:
Once you decide to start trying for a baby, the most common question to ask is How long does it take to get pregnant? You are not alone in your impatience! However, it is important to try to relax when you are trying for a baby as stress can affect your chances of success month after month.
It is perfectly normal for couples without any known or unexpected physical problems, who are having regular sex, to take six months to get pregnant. So right now, just try to enjoy the adventure, read our Top Tips for Conception and make sure you are having lots of sex!
If you haven't already, start taking a folic acid supplement (don't worry if you get pregnant quickly and have only been taking it for a month or so, just make sure you take it daily now and for at least the first 12 weeks of pregnancy).
And don't forget, it takes two to tango: it's worth reading Men - Trying for a Baby for a useful overview of the health and emotional issues for would-be dads.
If you have been trying for six months
If you have been trying to get pregnant for a few months, you might want to take stock of the situation. You can read more about reaching the six months stage here, but also, please don't be downhearted at this point, as couples without any medical issues who are having regular sex can often take up to a year to get pregnant and sometimes even longer.
Often, without realising it, you will find that you have not necessarily given it your best shot yet. For example, couples find that work or a major upheaval like moving jobs or home has left them tired and not in the best shape to have regular sex. If you are aware that you and your partner do not get the chance to have unprotected sex most nights, try to maximise your opportunities at those times in the month when you are most fertile. Whilst regular, relaxed sex should be enough to get you successfully through this stage, some women like to keep a tab on their temperature as an indicator of when ovulation is approaching - this is the optimum time for sex to lead to conception.
It it important, too, to remind yourself of something very basic: enjoy sex! Don't let it become a duty just because you are both concentrating so hard on getting pregnant.
If you have been trying for 12 months
To start with, get a good overview of the situation from our article Trying for 12 months: What Now?
To be honest, if you are a young couple and there are no known medical issues relating to you or your partner, you may find that your GP still feels there is time for you to continue trying through regular unprotected sex. However, you might also want to consider investigating infertility as a possible next step.
Beginning to look at the causes of having trouble TTC does not mean that you can't necessarily have a child or that you will need to go through IVF treatment. If your doctor recommends routine tests, don't stop trying to have a baby through regular sex. It is a fact that some couples go all the way through treatments such as IVF only to end up getting pregnant naturally!
If you are not sure if now is the time to go to your doctor, read When to Seek Help.
It is very hard to stay positive, but many couples have been what you are going through, and it is important if you can, to face disappointment as a couple and not be hard on yourselves without talking to each other.
The HFEA website has some great advice for couples who are trying for a baby, including information on how to go about deciding what to do next, and what clinics are available to you.
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