Conception is an incredible process. There are a large amount of steps that go into creating your bouncing ball of joy!
To give yourself the best chance of conceiving, it's really important that you understand what happens when and how the male and female reproductive systems work. You have to time the exact moment that is best for the male sperm and the female egg have to come together for fertilisation. Understanding the process will help you figure out how you can promote conception and perhaps why you are struggling to fall pregnant.
Both men and women have important roles to play in the conception process. The more you know about how your body works and what it needs during this time, the better you are able to provide for its needs.
For conception to be successful, there are a few steps that must occur:
For women, the possibility of conception is enhanced when they are ovulating. The science behind this is that the egg has to be released for the sperm to fertilise it. Ovulation usually happens two weeks before a woman expects her period.
When a woman ovulates, the eggs that grow in small sacs errupts. After the egg errupts and leaves the sac, the sac helps develop the hormone that promotes the lining of the uterus. The thickening of the uterus makes for an inviting environment for the embryo to grow.
As the egg releases, it moves through the fallopian tube. Women usually have about 24 hours of an optimal fertilisation window for the sperm to fertilise it.
If the egg isn’t fertilised, the body gets ready to shed the lining of the uterus and a woman’s period will start.
However, conditions such as endometriosis and polycystic ovary syndrome can impair the fallopian tubes’ ability to function. These diseases can also impact a woman’s menstrual cycle and the ability to ovulate.
The ability of a man’s sperm transportation can be impacted by several factors. A man’s sperm count, sperm health and hormonal environment can impact the sperm’s ability to fertilise the egg. Luckily, a man’s sperm replenish every 2 to 3 months.
It’s important that both men and women look after their health to ensure the right conditions for impregnation. When trying to conceive, the sperm has to follow a certain journey to reach the egg.
At least 39 million sperm cells are released when a man ejaculates but only 1 will fertilise each egg. After a man ejaculates, a protective gel is formed to protect the sperm from the vagina’s acidic environemnt. The protected sperm then travels through the cervical mucus to get to the uterus.
Once the sperm has entered the uterus, orgasmic contractions will help the sperm move upward into the fallopian tubes. This sperm can survive in the woman’s reproductive system for up to five days.
A woman is most optimal for fertilisation for only 12 to 24 hours in their cycle. Having an orgasm during intercourse will, however, help propel the sperm into the cervix for prime fertilisation.
Partners can explore different positions together to help achieve an orgasm or could look to try some deeper penetration positions. This will assist with propelling the sperm into the cervix and help with the fertilisation process.
Fertilisation occurs when the eggs rests in the ampullary-isthmic junction of the fallopian tube. The egg sits in this area for 30 hours until the sperm meets the egg. Sperm will have to travel roughly 18 cm from the cervix to meet the egg. When the egg is fertilised, it descends into the uterus until the baby is fully grown.
Any defects or growth in the fallopian tube may disrupt the sperm’s ability to fertilise the egg or cause ectopic pregnancies.
The moment that the egg is fertilised, your baby’s genes are set. As the sperm carries chromosomes, the sperm determines the sex of your baby.
During fertilisation, the embryo forgoes a few developmental stages. This will occur within the first 24 hours of fertilisation. First, a cell known as the zygote is created. It will then quickly divide into a bundle of cells through mitosis.
This ball of cells has now become a blastocyst. Lastly, the blastocyst will then travel down the fallopian tube and toward the womb.
According to UCSF Health, 50% of fertilised eggs are lost before a woman’s missed period. An embryo may develop but not grow into the blastocyst stage. The egg has to develop to this stage in order to attach to the uterus.
Until the blastocyst embryo attaches itself to the wall of a woman’s uterus, you are not actually pregnant. Only once the embryo attaches itself, development will occur.
When this happens, a woman may experience what is known as implantation bleeding. Implantation bleeding will last up to 48 hours with light spotting. If you notice a heavier flow that is not within your menstrual period, it’s recommended that you consult your doctor.
Once the embryo attaches itself to the uterus, the uterus and cervix begins to adapt for birth. The lining of the uterus gets thicker for nutrients and the cervix develops its mucus plug.
Pregnancy hormones will also start to show up on tests when implantation is successful. After the embryo attaches itself to the uterine wall, hCG levels will begin to be released into a woman’s body. It usually takes up to 3 to 4 weeks from your first day of your last period for the hCG levels to picked up on a test.
Now that you and your partner have a firm understanding about the conception process, you will be able to understand what’s going on in your bodies better.
Unlike the movies, fertilisation isn’t instant and it will take a couple of weeks until a woman will notice pregnancy symptoms. If you have missed a period or noticed one of the signs of early pregnancy, it’s best to do a test or visit your doctor.
One common misconception is that it's best to 'do the deed' as often as you can because the greater the number of episodes of intercourse, the greater the chance of conception. But that's obviously not true bearing in mind that a woman is only fertile for a limited number of days every month.
When trying to conceive, it's better to have intercourse every other day around ovulation to give the man a chance to recharge his sperm count in between.
While there are no scientific studies regarding the best positions for baby-making, the missionary (man on top) position is typically considered optimal for conception.
There are people who suggest that placing a pillow under the hips and keeping legs raised after sex may enhance the sperms' ability to swim upstream.
You can, of course, get pregnant having intercourse in almost any position, but there are certain gravity-defying positions such as sitting, standing, or woman on top that may discourage sperm from travelling upstream.
If you are trying to conceive, you shouldn't do daft things like douche after intercourse. Douching alters the pH balance of the vagina and sperm needs the alkaline-acid levels to be more or less balanced in order to live.
In addition, if you douche, you're flushing cervical fluid out and this fluid gives sperm an easier and quicker path to the uterus and beyond.
There is also a myth that says if you have an orgasm, you are more likely to have a male!
Who knows if that is true, but if you do, you are far more likely to have fun, and at the end of the day, fun should be the aim of the game because we all know.... when people are trying to get pregnant, it can take the fun and spontaneity out of the physical side of your relationship!
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