At the beginning of a new year we start thinking about what we want to achieve in the next 12 months, both professionally and personally. For many people this will include plans to extend their family.
If you’re thinking about having a baby in 2019 you will want to get off to the best possible start, so we’ve asked the experts the questions that you will need answered to have the best chance at conceiving in the next 12 months.
When Should You Be Having Sex?
You are most likely to get pregnant if you have sex within a day or so of ovulation – when your ovaries release an egg – as an egg lives for around 12 to 24 hours after it’s released. For you to get pregnant, the sperm must fertilise the egg within this window of ovulation.
So when in the month do you ovulate? While it will vary slightly from woman to woman, the NHS says ovulation usually happens about 14 days after the first day of your last period. If you can’t remember when your last period finished, work backwards from your next period is expected as you are usually most fertile around 2 weeks before your next period is due.
If you’re still struggling to pinpoint your fertile window you can also download apps, such as Clue or, or products like MyLotus that help to track your cycle.
The British Pregnancy Advisory Service (BPAS) say: “Some women think if they’ve had unprotected sex a few times and not become pregnant that they may be infertile, but all this suggests is they probably weren’t having sex at their fertile time.”
How Often Should You Be Having Sex?
Once you’ve identified your most fertile period of the month you will want to ensure you are having ‘regular’ sex, which the NHS says means should be every two to three days throughout the whole month - not just when you’re fertile.
This is because sperm can live inside your body for between five and seven days before they die. If you ovulate early or late and a sperm is still alive, you could still potentially conceive.
Overall you want to be having sex about two to three times every week. But Dr Virginia Beckett, consultant obstetrician and gynaecologist, and spokesperson for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (RCOG), says quite simply: “The more often a couple has sex, the better chances of conceiving.
[Read More: This Is Why You Should Be Having Sex Twice A Night]
How Long Will It Take To Get Pregnant?
There is no hard and fast answer, of course. Some people will get pregnant straight away while others will have to wait months. But don’t despair, the statistics show that 84 out of every 100 couples will get pregnant within a year if they have regular sex (every two or three days) and don’t use contraception.
Of the 16% of women who don’t conceive in the first year, 50% will have a baby in the second year. But if you have been trying for more than a year without any luck then you might want to see your GP for advice. For women who have a pre-existing condition, such as endometriosis or PCOS, or for those aged 36 or over, seeking advice after six months is sensible, Beckett suggests.
Does Contraception Affect How Long It Takes?
By the time many women come to getting pregnant they will have been using hormonal contraceptives (the pill, the IUD, the implant) for many years and worry that it will take a long time to resume normal service. But BPAS say that this isn’t something to worry about.
A spokesperson for BPAS says: “There is a myth that it takes some time for the hormones to leave your body before your fertility kicks in again. The truth is you can get pregnant very soon after you stop using most hormonal contraception (which is why women can conceive when they miss pills or have a tummy bug).
The same is also true of a copper IUD (the coil) – once removed, your fertility quickly returns to normal. With the Depo-Provera injection, it can take up to a year for fertility to return once you stop the injection, but there is no guarantee.
Should You Make Any Other Lifestyle Changes?
The NHS says you’re more likely to get pregnant if you and your partner are in good health so making some small changes to your lifestyle may improve your chances of getting pregnant and going on to have a healthy pregnancy.
Beckett says if you’re starting to try for a baby it is important to start taking folic acid: “It is important women who are trying to conceive take 400mcg supplements of folic acid every day to reduce the risk of her baby developing a birth defect. It’s also important to avoid vitamin A supplements as these can harm.”
Fertility expert, Emma Cannon tells HuffPost UK that you might want to think about your diet and ensuring that you’re getting enough nutrients: “Start the new year by eating a rainbow diet, in other words, a wide variety of foods.
“Your plate should be mainly plant-based with a small amount of meat per week if you eat meat. Grains which have been soaked well before use, as well as seeds and nuts which are great for your health in small quantities as well as good quality fats and oils in the diet - try olive, hemp, or pumpkin oil. It is recommended that we should eat between 5-8 portions of fruit and veg per day, with the emphasis on vegetables as fruits are often high in sugar.”
Another thing to consider is your stress levels: “Too much stress can affect our hormone levels which subsequently impact the menstrual cycle and fertility. The same holds true for men as well. Stress has been linked to poor sperm quality,” says Cannon.
Start as you mean to go on and find something which works for you such as a relaxing bath, baking, reading a book or getting you partner to give you a massage.