Guide to increasing the chances of getting pregnant naturally

Guide to increasing the chances of getting pregnant naturally

Baby girls are born with a fixed supply of eggs. During each natural female monthly cycle, a woman releases one egg from one ovary from this supply. The egg takes two weeks to get ready to be released (ovulated) when it is picked up by the fallopian tube and carried towards the womb. It meets the sperm in the tube and fertilisation happens here. The embryo (fertilised egg) then attaches to the womb lining that has prepared to receive it. A baby then develops. The process is coordinated by hormones (natural chemical messages).

This graph may help you understand your ovulation cycle.


More information and advice about increasing your chances of getting pregnant is available below:

  • Fertility and age

    A woman’s fertility is quite closely related to her age. She is most fertile in her 20s and early 30s. For all women, fertility naturally falls in their later 30’s and 40’s which can make it harder to get pregnant naturally. By the age of 35 years, the average woman has lost 85% of the eggs she was born with. Most women still have plenty left.  IVF treatment does not affect (improve) egg quality but it can increase the number of eggs available to be fertilised at a given time.

  • Other reasons for low egg count

    Some women have fewer eggs than average at birth and some women lose their eggs more rapidly in their younger years. There may be inherited (genetic) reasons for this and / or it can be caused by past illness or lifestyle choices such as smoking. There are tests that can help to predict a woman’s egg reserve and her likely response to / success with IVF treatment.

  • Timing and frequency of sex

    Women with 28 day menstrual cycles start their period on day 1 and ovulate on day 14. In order for the sperm to be ready for the egg when it is released, you should start having sex on day 9-10 and every couple of days until day 20. This ensures a steady supply of sperm. You do not need to be too precise and it is not helpful to put yourself or your partner under pressure. It is also important not to avoid ejaculation for long periods of time (more than 5-7 days) to keep the sperm moving.

    If you cycle is longer or shorter than 28 days you should adjust the interval forward or backward accordingly. For example, if your cycle is 30 days, you start trying on day 11 and finish on day 22.  

    If your cycle is25-35 days apart you are highly likely to be ovulating and you do not need to test yourself for this every month. This can also cause more stress which is unnecessary.

  • Smoking

    Stop smoking completely.

  • Alcohol

    Reduce alcohol intake to a minimum for both men and women. No safe limit has been identified so no alcohol consumption is advised.

  • Rubella

    Women should be vaccinated against Rubella (German measles) or have their immunity confirmed.

  • Smear test

    Women should have an up to date, normal cervical smear test for cervical cancer.

  • Dietary supplements

    Women should be taking folic acid (vitamin B) supplement at 400 micrograms daily and for at least the first three months of pregnancy. Some women with other health issues (e.g.diabetes, epilepsy) need a higher dose (5mg) which their GP should prescribe.

    Vitamin D 10 micrograms supplement is also recommended.

    Over-the-counter 'multivitamins for pregnancy' contain both of these recommended supplements.

  • Weight

    Both partners should aim for normal body weight for their height. Women, in particular, should aim for a body mass index ideally under 25kg/m2, and absolutely under 30kg/m2 to access NHS-funding.

    Calculate your BMI

    Pregnancy is less successful and more risky at heavier weights. Pregnancy is also more dangerous with a higher risk of blood pressure problems and diabetes in heavier mothers.

  • Lifestyle

    A healthy, varied diet with minimal processed foods, and regular physical exercise are helpful for overall health, weight management and stress reduction.

    Discuss any other medication you take with your GP and specialist (s) to ensure any risks to yourself (from other medical conditions) and to your up-coming pregnancy/baby are minimised.

    Consider carefully the use of complementary therapies. Acupuncture is not known to be harmful and many patients find it helps with managing stress. Other supplements that have not undergone conventional medicine testing are not recommended.

    Warning: Performance-enhancing (muscle-building) drugs that may contain testosterone (Steroids) should be avoided at all costs as these destroy natural sperm production.

    Make time for yourself to relieve stress and sleep well.

    For more detailed information and personalised advice, you can also visit the Grace Dugdale Balance Fertility programme.