Getting pregnant

We talked to women with a wide variety of experiences of getting pregnant. Some easily became pregnant and had planned the timing to fit other aspects of their lives. (Most women planning to have a baby conceive within a year of trying). For some, pregnancy was unplanned and they had to rethink their life and relationships. Other women we spoke to had tried for years to conceive and some needed medical help. Those who had problems with their own health or with previous pregnancies had to think carefully about becoming pregnant.

For many people, deciding to try for a baby is an exciting and joyful point in their lives, and can bring a new intimacy to a relationship, both emotionally and sexually. One mother said her husband had been disappointed she got pregnant so quickly, because 'I think he was hoping for a long campaign, as he put it.' Although this can be a very enjoyable time, people also think about the responsibility they are taking on. Several felt it was important to wait till they had enough money and stability in their lives before having a baby. One woman felt it was important not to assume you would get pregnant or raise your expectations too high.

Another woman tried to plan the interval between her two babies carefully so they could be close together in age. Some people knew they wanted a baby, but just allowed it to happen rather than actively planning the timing. One couple taking this approach were taken aback when it happened earlier than they expected and they had to rethink a planned career change and house move.

Of course, having to make such changes is even more likely when a pregnancy is completely unexpected, especially if the relationship is not stable. One woman became pregnant even after using 'morning after' emergency contraception. Another thought a course of antibiotics had reduced the effectiveness of the pill. (Most antibiotics don't affect contraception. It's now thought that the only types of antibiotic that interact with hormonal contraception and make it less effective are rifampicin-like antibiotics. NHS Choices 2016). We talked to several single parents with unplanned pregnancies, some in their teens or very early twenties, and some older single parents. Some women had felt uncertain whether they wanted to keep the baby, but others felt ready to have a baby despite the disruption to their lives. (See also 'Discovering you're pregnant').

People who found it difficult to conceive often had long and complicated stories to tell, and we have grouped some of their experiences in a separate section (see 'Assisted conception'). Women described their gradual realisation something might be wrong, and the fertility investigations and treatments they experienced. Parents described the relief and sometimes disbelief of finally conceiving. Sometimes people conceive naturally long after they have given up hope of having a baby. Sadly this mother's first baby had a genetic abnormality and was stillborn, but her second baby was fine.

Some people with health problems had to think carefully about getting pregnant. For example, one woman thought she would never have children, because she was told she had multiple sclerosis and uses a wheelchair. She expected she would become too disabled to take part in her child's life. Her view changed when it was decided she did not have MS after all.

A mother with epilepsy discussed getting pregnant with her neurologist and a genetic counsellor, and planned what to do about medication and antenatal screening (See also 'Pregnancy with another conditions or disability').

Sometimes previous health problems affect a woman's chances of getting pregnant. One woman had a history of endometriosis (problems with the lining of the uterus), but conceived naturally after one of several episodes of surgery.

Another major factor affecting people's feelings about getting pregnant is previous experience of losing a baby, as a result of miscarriage or stillbirth or perhaps termination after a diagnosis of a genetic problem. Women were commonly very anxious about getting pregnant again and feared they might lose the baby, but they also needed to prove to themselves that they could have a healthy pregnancy. One woman's previous experience of miscarriage made her more determined to go ahead with her next pregnancy, even though it was unplanned, and maybe even subconsciously contributed to her becoming pregnant again. (See also 'Bleeding and miscarriage').

Last reviewed May 2017.
​Last updated May 2017.


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