Maternity services

Before your pregnancy

Trying to get pregnant

Pregnancy happens when sperm enters a vagina, travels through the cervix and womb to the fallopian tube and fertilises an egg.

You’re more likely to get pregnant around the time you are ovulating. This is when an egg becomes ready and you are at your most fertile.

If you are under 40 and have regular sex without using contraception, there is an 8 in 10 chance you will get pregnant within 1 year.

How to increase chances

There are things both you and your partner can do to increase the chances of getting pregnant.

If you’re trying to get pregnant it’s important to take folic acid every day, eat a healthy diet, and drink no more than 1 to 2 units of alcohol once or twice a week. This will help your baby develop healthily.

Find out more about how to increase your chances of getting pregnant and when to see your GP.

Getting pregnant if you have a mental health condition

If you are someone who experiences mental health problems, or you have a history of mental health problems, being pregnant can increase your risk of becoming unwell again.

Severe mental health problems such as psychosis, schizophrenia or bipolar affective disorder increase your risk of becoming seriously unwell in pregnancy or the postnatal period. 

The 2 main types of treatment for mental health problems in pregnancy are talking therapies and medication; however, many people find they need both talking therapy and medication to support their mental health.

If you take medication while you’re pregnant your doctor will explain how this may affect your baby. Try not to worry – you’ll be offered the safest medication at the lowest effective dose to support you.  It may be necessary to increase the dose of your medication in pregnancy due to the changes to the body that occur with pregnancy.  This means that your normal dose of medication may be less effective in pregnancy.  Often you can reduce your medication once you have had your baby.

Everyone’s mental health journey is different, but whatever happens, you will have a team of people supporting you. This may include midwives, GPs and mental health specialists.

For more information, read the charity Tommy's advice on pregnancy and mental health.

Immediate support

Support is available. If you need someone to talk to now contact your maternity unit or find out where to get urgent help for mental health.

Struggling to conceive

Around 1 in 7 couples may have difficulty conceiving.

About 84% of couples will conceive naturally within a year if they have regular unprotected sex (every 2 or 3 days).

For couples who have been trying to conceive for more than 3 years without success, the likelihood of getting pregnant naturally within the next year is 1 in 4, or less.

Some people get pregnant quickly, but for others it can take longer. It's a good idea to see a GP if you have not conceived after a year of trying.

Women aged 36 and over, and anyone who's already aware they may have fertility problems, should see their GP sooner.

They can check for common causes of fertility problems and suggest treatments that could help.

Infertility is usually only diagnosed when a couple have not managed to conceive after a year of trying.

Having a baby if you are LGBT+

The number of LGBT+ people becoming parents is increasing.

LGBT+ people have as much right to be parents as everyone else and there are more ways than ever for LGBT+ people to become parents.

The main options are assisted reproduction (fertility treatment), adoption/fostering, surrogacy, and co-parenting arrangements. LGBT+ people may also become parents through informal arrangements or becoming a stepfamily, or have children from previous relationships. These are all types of LGBT+ family.

If you're thinking about having children, you can read more information around the various routes to parenthood if you are LGBT+ that are available.

Finding out you're pregnant

Finding out that you are pregnant, whether you have been trying for a baby or not, can come as quite a surprise - or even a shock!

This section will explain what happens and things to think about when you're first pregnant.

The NHS due date calculator can help you work out when you might expect your baby to arrive.

Signs and symptoms of pregnancy

For people who have a regular monthly menstrual cycle, the earliest and most reliable sign of pregnancy is a missed period. Some of the other early pregnancy signs and symptoms are listed below. Everyone is different and will not notice all of these symptoms.

Whether or not you've done a pregnancy test, you should see a GP or midwife as soon as you think you're pregnant.

  • Feeling sick during pregnancy.

You may feel sick and nauseous, and/or vomit. This is commonly known as morning sickness, but it can happen at any time of the day or night.

Around half of all pregnant women experience nausea and vomiting, and around three in 10 women experience nausea without vomiting. For most women who have morning sickness, the symptoms start around six weeks after their last period.

If you're being sick all the time and can't keep anything down, contact your GP.

  • Feeling tired is common in pregnancy.

It's common to feel tired, or even exhausted, during pregnancy, especially during the first 12 weeks or so. Hormonal changes taking place in your body at this time can make you feel tired, nauseous, emotional and upset.

  • Sore breasts in early pregnancy.

Your breasts may become larger and feel tender, just as they might do before your period. They may also tingle. The veins may be more visible, and the nipples may darken and stand out.

Other signs of pregnancy that you might notice are:

  • Constipation

  • You may feel the need to pee (urinate) more often than usual, including during the night

  • An increased vaginal discharge without any soreness or irritation

  • A strange taste in your mouth, which many women describe as metallic

  • Craving new foods

  • Losing interest in certain foods or drinks that you previously enjoyed, such as tea, coffee or fatty food

  • Losing interest in tobacco

  • Having a more sensitive sense of smell than usual, for example to the smell of food or cooking.

Doing a pregnancy test

If you have missed a period and recently had unprotected sex, you may be pregnant. Pregnancy tests are most reliable from the first day of your missed period.

You can carry out most pregnancy tests from the first day of a missed period. If you don't know when your next period is due, do the test at least 21 days after you last had unprotected sex.

Some very sensitive pregnancy tests can be used even before you miss a period.

You can do a pregnancy test on a sample of urine collected at any time of the day. It doesn't have to be in the morning.

You can buy pregnancy testing kits from pharmacists and some supermarkets. They can give a quick result and you can do the test in private.

The following places provide free pregnancy tests:

  • Sexual health services

  • Some young people's services – call the national sexual health helpline on 0300 123 7123 for details

  • You may also be able to get a pregnancy test free of charge from your GP.

Booking your maternity care

If you would like us to care for you when you are having your baby, you can let us know by completing the self-referral form or find out more about our antenatal care.