The preconception period (three 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.
If you and your partner are planning to conceive, you should start taking folic acid before you get pregnant. Folic acid helps to provide the best health outcomes for your baby when it is growing. Taking folic acid daily before and during pregnancy also prevents the occurrence of neural tube defects, such as spina bifida, in your baby.
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 more healthy foods will help with your chances of conceiving and having a healthy pregnancy.
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.
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.
The best time to get 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). This is usually about 14 days after before your next period (not the first day of your last period).
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 up to seven 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.
The menstrual cycle is counted from the first day of a woman’s period (day one). Some time after her period she will ovulate.
Ovulatuion occurs 14 days before the first day of the next period (not after) and then around 12-14 days after this she’ll have her next period. 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.
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.