Planning a pregnancy - A healthy lifestyle

We have the best chance of conceiving and having a straightforward pregnancy when we are healthy.

We can’t control everything relating to our fertility, but this is one area where you can really take charge. By making healthy diet and lifestyle choices you can maximise your pregnancy potential.

Plan ahead and, where possible, make necessary adjustments well ahead of trying to have a baby.

It can take some time for these changes to take effect. For example, although most men produce millions of new sperm every day, it takes three months for new sperm to fully mature. That means, changes made now won’t make a difference for three months. Planning ahead to optimise fertility is important for both women and men.

Read more about "Diet and nutrition for fertility" and "Planning a pregnancy - A balanced diet"



Maintaining a healthy body weight really makes a difference and is relevant to both women and men. Checking your body mass index (BMI) is an easy way to see if you are a healthy weight for your height. A normal BMI range is between 18.5 and 24.9 (kg/m2). If your BMI is under 18.5 or over 30, fertility can be affected. In women it can affect the cycle and ovulation. In men it can affect sperm quality. Check your BMI now (click here). 

  • If you are outside this healthy range, losing or gaining weight should help to make your cycle and ovulation more regular. Even where cycles are still regular, obese women may have lower pregnancy rates. Even, moderate changes in weight make a difference. If you have a lot to lose, be encouraged that each small step makes a difference.
  • If you need to lose weight, do it gradually through a balanced diet and with exercise. Rapid weight change and crash diets may deplete the nutrient resources in your body, just when you need them. You should still aim for the same balanced diet, but reduce your calories by selecting low fat options and controlling your sugar intake.

  • Healthy sperm production is controlled by hormones. The fatty tissues of the body play an important role in the production of these hormones, and too much, or too little, fat can upset the hormone balance.



Alcohol may reduce your fertility, but may also increases the risk of miscarriage and still birth during pregnancy. It may also causes other serious problems for the baby.

It is difficult to know how much alcohol is safe to drink during pregnancy. The current guidance therefore recommends avoiding alcohol completely, both when you are trying to conceive and during pregnancy. The research is not clear on the impact of light drinking when pregnant, compared to not drinking alcohol at all. Whilst avoiding alcohol altogether is the safest option, there is no evidence to say that the very occasional small drink will cause harm.

Men should limit themselves to 14 units (equivalent to 6 pints of 4% strength beer) a week and avoid binge drinking by spreading it out over several days. Private clinics may turn away heavy drinkers.



Consider limiting your caffeine intake. Although studies have not shown a clear link between caffeine and natural fertility, there is evidence to suggest high caffeine consumption lowers IVF success rates. More research is needed to understand why this is and whether it can cause fertility problems in men or women more generally.

To avoid an increased risk of miscarriage or of a low birth-weight baby, pregnant women are advised to limit caffeine consumption to 200 mg per day, which is about two cups of coffee.



Deciding to give up smoking will provide so many benefits to you and your unborn child. Alongside the many personal health benefits, giving up smoking will reduce your chances of having fertility issues. Fertility problems are known to be higher in smokers than non-smokers. Smoking in men has been shown to reduce sperm count and sperm quality. Both sperm shape and movement can be affected, which may make it harder for sperm to fertilise the egg. Smoking also damages the genetic material in a woman’s eggs, increasing the chance of both miscarriage and birth defects.

The more cigarettes you smoke each day and the longer you have smoked, the greater the risks. If at all possible, you should stop smoking but even cutting down how many cigarettes you smoke will make a difference. To be eligible for NHS funded fertility treatment you may need to be a non-smoker. Private clinics also turn away smokers because of the potential reduction in success rates.

Read more about "Diet and nutrition for fertility" and "Planning a pregnancy - A balanced diet"