Pregnancy - The Birds and the Bees

Somewhere by the end of elementary school, most children understand the basics about the birds and the bees. The presentation might be very rudimentary, but the boy plus girl equals baby concept likely is understood.

For a woman who wants to hedge her chances of becoming pregnant, a better understanding of the biology behind the process can at the very least help ease the mind a little. The truth be told, making new life is pretty amazing and quite a bit more complicated than one plus one equals three.

Going back to grade-school biology, fertilization takes place when a woman's egg is infiltrated by a man's sperm. For the process to be completely successful, that fertilized egg must then attach to the woman's uterus and develop into a healthy baby.

The journey of the egg alone is rather amazing. Eggs, unlike sperm, do not come in unlimited numbers. A baby girl is born with roughly 1 million of them to last a lifetime. These eggs are stored in the ovaries and cannot be reproduced. What a girl is born with is what she has, no more, no less.

When girls mature into women (at least biologically), an egg that has reached maturity will be released into a woman's fallopian tube. This tube, of which are two, connects a single ovary to the uterus. The actual release of a mature egg into the tube is called ovulation and this is the starting of the timer on that month's cycle of fertility.

The egg (and in rare cases eggs) that are released into the tubes generally appear somewhere between the 12th and 16th days of a woman's menstrual cycle. Once the egg(s) is released, it has an expected lifespan of roughly one 24-hour day, give or take a little time. It is during this period an egg can become fertilized by a man's sperm.

On the man's side of the equation, millions of sperm cells are released during a typical ejaculation. Still, it is unlikely that even a single one will make it to and through the target.

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If the love connection is made, the first roadblock to pregnancy has been overcome. If the sperm and egg don't meet up on the perilous journey to the uterus, the woman's body will prepare itself for a regular period.

With only an estimated 24-hour period for conception to take place, it is easy to see why getting pregnant is more or less a crapshoot. Pinpointing or at least estimating the time of ovulation and removing roadblocks that stand between the egg and the sperm can put the odds in a couple's favor.

There are many things that can get in the way of the connection between the egg and the sperm actually happening. In some cases, it's a question of allowing birth control medication to fully work its way out of a body. In other cases, a man's sperm count might need to be increased to help the process along. Regardless, it is important to remember that pregnancy doesn't always happen immediately after the decision to become so is made.

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