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Planning for your pregnancy

4-minute read

If you are thinking about pregnancy, visit your doctor for a preconception consult. They will provide you with expert advice on planning your pregnancy.

The preconception period (3 to 6 months prior to pregnancy) is the time to make life changes that can help boost fertility, reduce problems during pregnancy and assist in recovery from birth.

Folic acid

If you and your partner are planning to conceive, you should start taking a folic and iodine supplement before you get pregnant. Folic acid helps to provide the best health outcomes for your baby when they are growing. Taking folic acid daily before and during pregnancy also prevents the occurrence of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in your baby. Iodine is important for the baby’s brain development.

You can buy a supplement at most pharmacies. Check it contains at least 500 micrograms (mcg) of folate and 150mcg of iodine.

For more information see folate and pregnancy

Watching what you eat

If you and your partner are preparing for pregnancy, you should look at your diet and see where you may be able to make healthier food choices. Eating a well-balanced diet including plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables will help with your chances of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy.

Learn more about preconception health for women and men.

Alcohol

There is no safe amount of alcohol to drink during pregnancy; therefore, for women who are pregnant or planning a pregnancy, not drinking is the safest option. Alcohol can affect the health and development of an unborn baby for life.

Smoking

Quitting smoking before pregnancy is the single most effective means of protecting your baby and yourself from the development of serious complications during pregnancy. By quitting smoking you are more likely to conceive naturally and without delay, less likely to suffer a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy and less likely to deliver your baby prematurely.

Pre-pregnancy check up

It is a good idea to have a chat with your doctor if you are planning to become pregnant. There may be some investigations to consider doing as well as discussing your general health and family history. This can also include considering vaccinations, pre-pregnancy health checks such as cervical screening, STI screening and dental checks, and discussing lifestyle changes. There is also an option of considering genetic carrier screening for some genetic conditions you may be at risk of passing on to your baby that you were not aware of. Discuss this with your doctor.

The best time to get pregnant

The woman's monthly cycle

Ovulation occurs each month when an egg is released from one of the ovaries.

Occasionally, more than one egg is released, usually within 24 hours of the first egg. At the same time, the lining of the womb begins to thicken and the mucus in the cervix becomes thinner so that sperm can swim through it more easily.

The egg begins to travel slowly down the fallopian tube. If a man and a woman have recently had sex, the egg may be fertilised here by the man's sperm.

The lining of the womb is now thick enough for the egg to be implanted in it after it has been fertilised.

If the egg is not fertilised, it passes out of the body during the woman's monthly period, along with the lining of the womb, which is also shed. The egg is so small that it cannot be seen.

Falling pregnant

You're most likely to get pregnant if you have sex within a day or so of ovulation (releasing an egg from the ovary). Ovulation occurs 14 days before the first day of your next period (not after). The average cycle takes 28 days, but shorter or longer cycles are normal. So a women with a 28 day cycle will ovulate on day 14 but a women with a 30 day cycle will ovulate day 16.

An egg lives for about 12 to 24 hours after it's released. For pregnancy to happen, the egg must be fertilised by a sperm within this time. If you want to get pregnant, having sex every couple of days will mean there's always sperm waiting in the fallopian tubes to meet the egg when it's released.

Sperm can live for about 5 days inside a woman’s body. So if you’ve had sex in the days before ovulation, the sperm will have had time to travel up the fallopian tubes to ‘wait’ for the egg to be released. It’s difficult to know exactly when ovulation happens, unless you are practising natural family planning, or fertility awareness.

You can find out more about timing sex and calculate your ovulation on the Your Fertility website.

Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2020


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Getting pregnant: Advice about pregnancy planning

Even if you're not sure if you want to have a baby right now, you can still benefit from this preconception advice. This way you'll be healthy for yourself and if you do choose to become a mum in the future, you'll be healthy for your baby too.

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Pregnancy planning for dads

A healthy pregnancy takes two and men need to prepare their bodies and their sperm to ensure they are optimally healthy at the time of conception. Many lifestyle measures, including eating a healthy balanced diet, exercising and avoiding drugs and alcohol, can improve a man’s health and the health of his sperm. In many cases these measures not only increase the chances of conception they also ensure the pregnancy gets off to the healthiest start possible.

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The information is not a substitute for independent professional advice and should not be used as an alternative to professional health care. If you have a particular medical problem, please consult a healthcare professional.

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