For many couples, conception takes longer than you might think and one in six couples have problems conceiving. According to Britain's best-known midwife Zita West, the stress of it all can make conception even harder.
West has been baby guru to Hollywood A-listers such as Kate Winslet and Cate Blanchett as well as Sophie, Countess of Wessex. At her London clinic she takes an integrated approach to pregnancy and birth, combining sound medical advice with therapies and counselling. She has a reputation for getting amazing results with couples who are struggling to conceive, particularly those undergoing IVF.
Now, thanks to her new book, Zita West's Guide to Fertility and Assisted Conception, we can all benefit from her expertise. West says she interviewed "all the top doctors in the field of fertility and IVF" for the book. Their bottom line? "When you look at what is stopping people from getting pregnant," she says, "the common theme is stress."
Around 23 per cent of infertility cases are "unexplained". But West believes that around 80 per cent of these cases could be down to the wrong mindset.
This is an area of some clinical debate. After all, women conceive in war zones and famines. And surely the last thing any stressed couples need is to berate themselves for not being relaxed enough? West agrees. "You have to take the pressure off," she says. "And that's not easy."
She starts with the basics. Many couples do not have sex frequently enough – she advises three times weekly, throughout the cycle. People also start panicking too soon. "It can take a year to conceive your first baby," she explains. "But these days the pressure starts after just a few tries."
Couples then panic and "go down the IVF route way too fast", she says. IVF itself can be dehumanising and scary. "It's all about the clinical process and very little about the state of the couple who are going through it," West adds.
To maximise your chances of conception, she recommends looking at the "big picture". You have to unpick everything from your lifestyle and physical health, to your relationship strains, self-image and work pressures.
"Many of the people I see are in their thirties. They're often exhausted and stressed. They're building careers, moving houses, building extensions, juggling," she says. But to maximise the chances of conception, you have to be in the right frame of mind - relaxed and positive. It's a tall order if you're panicking that you might never have a baby.
According to West, simple lifestyle changes such as giving up smoking or managing your weight, along with relaxation therapies can work wonders. And best of all, "couples then realise they can cope with anything".
This, at the very least, has got to be a godsend.
Read more about nutrition and fertility for conception.