Fertility Basics

The reproduction of human life depends on a female’s ovulation. A male will produce sperm on a daily basis, whereas a female will only ovulate once in a particular ovulation cycle (usually monthly). This provides a short time period for a successful conception to occur. If the ovulated egg is not fertilized within 24 hours, it will then die.

After intercourse, the couple must wait two weeks to determine if the there was a successful conception, which results in the pregnancy. A successful pregnancy can occur in any one of the cycles, and it is these fertility cycles that treatments will focus around. The three basic phases involved with reproduction are ovulation, fertilization, and implementation.

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Ovulation

Close to the time that a woman begins her menstruation cycle, several eggs will begin to grow in both ovaries. The eggs will grow inside what is known as a follicle, and the follicle looks very similar to a tiny blister. These follicles are attached to the surface of the ovaries and contain a follicular fluid and tiny cell, which is the egg. The body produces the hormone known as follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), which then stimulates the ovaries.

Of the several follicles, only one is selected for ovulation, while the others are absorbed by the ovaries. The follicle that was selected continues to grow to approximately the size of a grape. This generally takes close to two weeks which leads to ovulation. The follicle then ruptures and releases the fluid, while the egg is also released. Now the egg travels up either one of the fallopian tubes, and this is where it has 24 hours to be fertilized or it dies.

Fertilization

The male’s sperm is what fertilizes the egg and is able to survive for close to two days or more in the cervical mucus. This is why timing with sexual intercourse does not have to be precise. With intercourse every one or two days, the female reproductive tract can be adequately supplied with sperm. Once the egg is successfully fertilized, the cell begins a series of divisions. With each division the cell becomes smaller as it travels toward the uterus.

Implantation

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After ovulation and fertilization, it takes nearly five days for the embryo to reach the uterus. The embryo now has up to 100 cells that continue to expand in order to break through the shell.

Once they have hatched, the cells will implant themselves to the walls of the uterus where they continue to replicate. They will now create the hormone human chorionic gonotropin (HCG), which is measured in urine and blood to detect if there is a successful conception.

Once the implantation has taken place, the pregnancy now begins to be monitored. The best way to do this is to track the HCG levels with blood tests. This is usually done for the first several weeks after conception, and then an ultrasound is used to observe the pregnancy. The ultrasound will monitor its growth and development, and the heartbeat is able to be seen about five weeks following ovulation.

The ovaries will continue to produce estrogen in order to support the pregnancy, but after thirteen weeks (first trimester) the pregnancy is fully capable of supporting itself. For the next nine months the pregnancy will be regularly monitored with ultrasounds and sometimes blood tests. These tests are done to ensure the health and safety of the baby and mother.