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CONCEPTION

Conception is the creation of a new life through the fusion of an egg and a sperm; the female and male cells which contain the genetic material of an individual. The female and male reproductive systems both contribute different elements to this amazing process. 

Women

During puberty, the female body is inundated with a high level of sex and growth hormones. This hormonal infusion triggers a maturation of sex traits and initiates a monthly menstrual cycle, the arrival of which means that a woman’s body is fertile and she can become pregnant. 

←Fertilization

The female reproductive system has two ovaries located on either side of the womb, positioned very near the openings of the fallopian tubes. Each ovary contains about 200,000 thousand ovum, or unfertilized eggs. Every egg has an X sex chromosome, which signifies the female sex. Most commonly during fertilization, the father’s sperm will either contribute another X chromosome to create the female XX pattern, or a Y chromosome to create the male XY pattern. Other naturally occurring chromosomal patterns include XXY, YYX, and XO.

Each month during ovulation, a new egg is released from one of the ovaries, where it is caught and moved into a fallopian tube by finger-like tendrils called fimbrae. Aided by moving smaller hair-like structures called cilia, the egg travels down the tube and into the uterus. If this occurs after penile ejaculation into the vagina and sperm has worked its way into one of the fallopian tubes, fertilization – the fusion of a sperm and an egg into a single cell called a zygote – can occur.  

Fertilization is not guaranteed by the ejaculation of sperm into the vagina. Of the 150,000 to 600,000 sperm that ejaculation deposits in the vagina, only a few hundred will make the journey through the cervix and the uterus and up the fallopian tubes. This intrepid group of sperm bump into the egg, releasing substances that break up the cells surrounding the egg and cause the acrosome reaction, which produces additional changes in the sperm. These changes make it possible for a sperm to penetrate the outer layers of the egg. Once a single sperm penetrates the egg, the eggs surface changes so that no other sperm can penetrate it. The sperm and egg then fuse into a zygote composed of genetic material from both parents. The zygote must then travel down the fallopian tube to implant in the uterus. 

Above: Sperm bumping the egg to gain entrance.

Over the monthly course of the female fertility cycle, a special coating called the endometrium or uterine lining builds up on the inner wall of the uterus. If the zygote completes its journey through the fallopian tube and successfully implants in this nutrient rich lining of the uterus, conception is complete and pregnancy initiated.  

The whole process of fertilization through conception can take from one to five days. 

Pregnancy Alert!!!
Sperm can survive for eight days or longer in a woman's reproductive system.
Fertilization may occur any time during this period if a sperm fuses with an egg. 

Men

During puberty the male body is inundated with a high level of sex and growth hormones. This initiates a process that causes the testicles to begin producing sperm. Once this begins, the testes will produce sperm for the duration of a man's life. The Spermarche is the first ejaculation of semen containing sperm. 

After their initial production in the testicles, the sperm move up a tube-like structure in back of each testicle called the epididymis. During ejaculation they travel from the epididymis up a long tubular cord, the vas deference, to the ejaculatory duct where they mix with other secretions to form semen. This semen is ejaculated through the urethral tube out of the opening of the penis. When sperm ejaculation takes place within or near enough to a woman's vaginal canal, the semen helps to carry the sperm up inside the vaginal canal, where it swims up through the female reproductive system to the fallopian tubes. Any sperm that completes the entire journey to the fallopian tubes bumps against the egg to try and gain entrance. If one of the sperm penetrates an egg, the sperm and egg fuse to become a zygote, or fertilized egg. The zygote then travels down the fallopian tube into the uterus, where it implants in the uterine wall. If it is successful, this is the completion of conception and the initiation of pregnancy.

Above: The anatomy of sperm

 

 

Images: Wikipedia Commons

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