Achieving a healthy pregnancy is a complicated, multi-stage process involving two people. Every month, the female ovulates one mature egg from one of her ovaries. Here, it will begin to move slowly down the tube towards the womb uterus.
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While you release only a single egg each month, your partner releases millions of sperm in a single ejaculation — all with their eye on that single prize. But only one of those sperm will be crowned the victor, and the odds are stacked against fertilization. Luckily, egg and sperm have developed some pretty nifty tricks to give themselves a fighting chance.
Human fertilization is the union of a human egg and spermusually occurring in the ampulla of the fallopian tube. Scientists discovered the dynamics of human fertilization in the nineteenth century. The process of fertilization involves a sperm fusing with an ovum. The most common sequence begins with ejaculation during copulationfollows with ovulationand finishes with fertilization.
Getting pregnant is not an easy task, but understanding the essential physiology of the process is the best place to start. In this chapter I will describe the arduous journey that sperm must make through the female genitals to reach the egg, as well as the simultaneous adventure of the egg during which it matures to become genetically ready for fertilization, erupts from the ovary, and gets grabbed by the fallopian tube, fertilized, and then hustled along into the womb at exactly the right moment to implant. Failure of the sperm or egg to make an important connection anywhere along this complicated itinerary will prevent pregnancy from occurring.
To become pregnantsperm from a male has to meet an egg from a female. This can happen when a male and female have sexual intercourse, when the penis is in the vagina. If an egg has been released and is in the fallopian tube, one of these sperm may reach the membrane of the egg and get inside it.
Fig 1. The journey begins with millions of sperm cells that are released into the female reproductive tract during intercourse. The sperm cells gain their full ability to swim when they are ejaculated into the reproductive tract [ 1 ],[ 2 ].
People have sex for pleasure, reproduction, or both. Pregnancy happens when an egg and sperm successfully meet through intercourse or in vitro fertilization. What do they look like, and how many do we all have?
To become pregnantthe following steps must occur:. Following ejaculation, the semen forms a gel that protects it from the acidic environment of the vagina. The gel is liquefied within 20 to 30 minutes by enzymes from the prostate gland.