Love is in the air

Young smiling couple holding and looking at an ultrasound scan of their expecting baby at home

Young smiling couple holding and looking at an ultrasound scan of their expecting baby at home - Credit: Archant

Our health columnist Dr Matt Piccaver, a GP based in East Anglia, discusses best ways of increasing the chances of becoming pregnant.

As winter’s dark hues give way to the colour of spring, we can’t help but notice the world come alive. Spring is a time for growth, for renewal and for much of the natural world, mating.

Unlike much of nature, we have the ability to reproduce all year round and seem to be rather good at it. Ask any midwife and they’ll no doubt say they’re busier than ever.

Some people have to try hard to fall pregnant, whereas others seem to fall pregnant at the drop of a hat (I am reliably informed that this isn’t how babies arrive). For those who are having difficulties conceiving, trying for a baby can seem quite a daunting task. Around four out of five couples will conceive after a year of trying, and nine out of 10 by the end of the year. This figure is lower the older a woman gets, especially after the age of 40. There are some things we can do to maximise our chance of conceiving, before we need to consider the prospect of fertility treatment:

1 Have sex every 48 to 72 hours – self-explanatory really.

2 Don’t drink too much alcohol – women should drink no more than one or two units per week, and men no more than three to four.

3 Try not to get too fat – women should aim for a BMI of less than 30.

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4 Try not to be too thin – you may find it harder to conceive if your BMI is under 19

5 Think about folic acid – taking a folic acid supplement before conception and in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy can reduce the chance of conditions like spina bifida (called neural tube defects). Speak to your pharmacist, GP or midwife if you’re unsure how much to take.

6 Give up smoking. This is a good idea full-stop. Smoking can reduce the chances of conception.

If you’ve been trying for a baby for over a year, you might want to discuss this with your GP. We often carry out simple investigations at this point, such as blood tests or semen samples to see why conception might be taking time. The next step depends on what we find.

By paying attention to our lifestyle, keeping an on our weight or what we eat and drink, we can give ourselves the best chances of conceiving.

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