Planning another pregnancy

Your guide to getting pregnant again, including taking folic acid, you and your partner being a healthy weight, and not smoking while you're trying to conceive.

You can increase your chances of getting pregnant again if you are in good health.

It is also important that your partner is healthy. A bad diet, smoking, drinking and unhealthy working conditions can affect the quality of sperm and prevent pregnancy happening.

Folic acid

You should take a 400 microgram folic acid tablet every day while trying to get pregnant up until you're 12 weeks pregnant.

It reduces the risk of having a baby born with defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord, such as spina bifida. You can get these tablets from a supermarket or pharmacist.

It's also good to eat foods that contain this important vitamin. These include leafy green vegetables, and breakfast cereals and breads with added folic acid.

You'll need a bigger dose of folic acid if:

  • you or the baby's other biological parent have defects of the brain, spine or spinal cord (these are known as neural tube defects)
  • you or the baby's other biological parent have a family history of neural tube defects
  • you have had a previous pregnancy that was affected by a neural tube defect
  • you have coeliac disease
  • you have diabetes
  • you take anti-epileptic medicine
  • you take anti-retroviral medicine for HIV
  • you have a BMI of 30 or over

Women with the blood disorders sickle cell or thalassaemia (or thalassaemia trait) should take folic acid 5 mg daily throughout pregnancy.

Ask a GP for advice.

Rubella (german measles) and pregnancy

Rubella is rare in the UK thanks to the uptake of the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.

But if you get the infection in early pregnancy, it can lead to serious birth defects and miscarriage.

If you're not sure whether you've had 2 doses of the MMR vaccine, ask your GP practice to check.

You can have the vaccinations at your GP practice if you have not had both doses or there's no record available.

You should avoid getting pregnant for 1 month after having the MMR vaccination.

Be aware that the MMR vaccine is not suitable if you are already pregnant.

Diabetes and epilepsy

Talk to your doctor before you try to get pregnant if you have diabetes. You'll need some extra care during pregnancy.

You should also talk to your doctor if you have epilepsy. Some medicines used to treat epilepsy can cause birth defects.

There should be alternative epilepsy medicines that your doctor can recommend.

Mental health and pregnancy

If you previously experienced a mental health condition such as postnatal depression, postpartum psychosis or PTSD, talk to your doctor before you try to get pregnant.

You may have experienced a birth trauma and are anxious about having another baby. Your doctor or midwife will listen to any concerns you have and can personalise your care.

Find out more about getting pregnant if you have a mental health condition.

Vaginal birth after caesarean section

If you previously had a caesarean section, it is likely that you can have a vaginal delivery with your next baby.

It partly depends on why you had a caesarean section and how many caesareans you've had. A GP, midwife or obstetrician will be able to advise you.

You'll be advised to have a caesarean with your next baby if you:

  • previously had a uterine rupture (a tear in the wall of your womb)
  • previously had womb surgery
  • have a vertical scar on your uterus
  • have placenta praevia (where the neck of the uterus is blocked by the placenta)

After 1 caesarean section, you are likely to go on and have a vaginal delivery with your next pregnancy if the pregnancy is straightforward.

But if problems occur throughout labour, the midwife and obstetrician could advise that you have a caesarean section. This is because of the risk of complications that may arise as a result of previous scarring.

Cervical screening test

If you're due to have cervical screening (a smear test), you should have this test before you try to get pregnant.

If you're invited for a routine smear test while you're pregnant you should tell your GP or clinic you're pregnant. You will usually be advised to reschedule the test for a date around 12 weeks after your baby is born.

Read more about health things you should know in pregnancy, including cervical screening.

You and your partner's weight and fertility

It can improve your chances of getting pregnant if you and your partner are a healthy weight.

This is particularly important if you or your partner are living with obesity (have a BMI of 30 or more) as this means you're likely to have lower fertility.

Before you get pregnant, you can find out whether you're a healthy weight and get advice with the BMI healthy weight calculator.

Speak to a GP or practice nurse if you need help or advice.

Medicines and drugs while trying

Some medicines can harm your baby if you take them while you're pregnant, while others are safe to take.

If either you or your partner take medicine regularly, talk to your doctor about any possible effects on fertility or pregnancy.

Do this ideally before you start trying for a baby or as soon as you find out you're pregnant.

Check with your doctor, midwife or pharmacist before you take any over-the-counter medicines or herbal remedies.

Find out more about medicines in pregnancy.

Illegal drugs may affect your ability to conceive or the development of your baby if you're pregnant.

For friendly, confidential advice, contact:

Find out more about illegal drugs in pregnancy.

Sexually transmitted infections (STIs)

STIs can affect your health and your ability to get pregnant. If there's any chance you or your partner have an STI, it's important to get it diagnosed and treated before you get pregnant.

STIs can be passed on through unprotected sex with an infected person. Some STIs can be passed on from one person to another without penetration.

HIV, hepatitis B and hepatitis C can also be passed on by sharing equipment for injecting drugs, such as needles.

If you’re HIV positive, treatment is available to prevent you passing on the virus to your baby during pregnancy or at birth. You can still pass on HIV by breastfeeding.

Read living with HIV and AIDS to find out more about pregnancy and HIV.

Fertility and where you work

If you or your partner are exposed to X-rays or pesticides where you work, it may affect your fertility.

Talk to a GP if you're concerned. They can advise you about any possible risks to your fertility.

Finding it hard to get pregnant?

It can take a while to get pregnant the second or third time around, even if it happened very quickly the last time.

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