Usually, the first sign that you are pregnant will be a missed period, although some women claim they knew they were pregnant before. The quickest way to confirm pregnancy is to use a home pregnancy kit which measures the level of pregnancy hormone in your urine.

Signs of pregnancy

  • Missed period
  • Sore breasts Sickness
  • Passing urine frequently
  • Tiredness
  • Heightened sense of smell and/or food cravings

Why can’t I conceive?

You may be trying for a baby at the wrong time. To increase your chances, find out when you are most fertile and have intercourse at those times. Your most fertile times will be around the time you ovulate. If your cycle is regular you can work this out using a calendar. Ovulation will occur between 12 and 16 days before your next period.

Ovulation can also be tested with an ovulation test (available from a pharmacy). Like a home pregnancy test you hold the test stick in your flow of urine and wait for the results.

During your cycle the amount of cervical mucus (discharge) that you produce changes. It is usually thicker at the start and end of your cycle and clearer and wetter around ovulation. By keeping track of this you can start to identify your most fertile times.

Some 80% of couples who have regular unprotected sex (every two to three days) will get pregnant within a year but an estimated 1 in 7 will have difficulty conceiving. If you haven’t conceived after a year of trying you may want to consult a doctor.

How is infertility treated?

Clomifene tablets are prescribed to women who are not ovulating but who have normal levels of oestrogen. These tablets are taken for five days at the beginning of the cycle.

In vitro fertilisation (IVF) is when fertilisation takes place outside the woman's body. Most clinics suppress the action of the woman's own fertility hormones using an injection or nasal spray. The ovaries are then stimulated with daily injections.

Once there is a mature egg follicle in the ovary an injection of the pregnancy hormone Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) is given.The eggs are removed from the ovary 36 to 40 hours later with a fine needle placed into the vagina. The eggs are fertilised with sperm in a laboratory before being returned to the womb.

Intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI)

This is used to treat male infertility or if IVF has failed. The procedure is similar to IVF but involves injecting a single sperm directly into an egg in order to fertilise it. The fertilised egg (embryo) is then transferred to the woman’s womb.

Alternative remedies/self-help

When trying to conceive it’s essential to take in a good balance of vitamins and minerals which can be achieved through healthy eating and/or by taking supplements. Smoking cessation will also improve your chances of having a baby.

After a positive pregnancy test, maintaining good health is vital. Exercising will tone and strengthen muscles, making it easier to carry the baby but vigorous exercise should be avoided. Your diet should be rich in calcium, protein, carbohydrates (especially wholemeal products to increase fibre intake) and vitamins.

The medical profession and the Government’s Chief Medical Officer recommend that you take a 400 microgram (µg) folic acid supplement every day when trying to conceive and during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Alcohol and caffeinated drinks should be avoided, as should raw eggs, undercooked meats, shellfish and unpasteurised products.

Your baby will be exposed to anything you ingest - so avoid toxic substances such as cigarettes or drugs and consult your doctor if you are taking any medications.