When the ovum (egg) and sperm meet, conception occurs. It can take from 45 minutes to 12 hours for sperm to reach your fallopian tubes. Conception usually occurs in the fallopian tubes. However, sperm can survive inside your body for up to seven days. So if you are ovulating, pregnancy can happen anytime up to a week after intercourse.
Inside a woman’s body: how an egg is made?
The process of conception in women starts with the ovaries. These are two small oval organs, which are attached on either side of the uterus. The ovaries are filled with ovules (eggs), which are made before you are even born.
Every little girl is born with 10 to 20 lakh eggs in her ovaries. Many of the eggs begin to die almost immediately, and the remaining ones also decrease with age. When your period’s first start, usually between the ages of 10 and 14, about six million eggs are still viable. Scientists calculate that by the age of 30, only 72,000 eggs remain viable.
During each menstrual cycle, sometime after your period, between three and 30 eggs begin to mature in one of your ovaries. After this the most mature ovum is released, this process is called ovulation. This ovum is pulled by the tulip-shaped mouth of the nearest fallopian tube.
There are two fallopian tubes in the female body. The length of each of them is about 10 cm. and they pass through the ovary to the uterus.
Ovulation usually occurs 12 to 14 days before your next period. The exact time of ovulation depends on the length of your cycle.
Many different hormones work together to control the length of your cycle, egg maturation, and the timing of ovulation. You can read more about these hormones in our article on the menstrual cycle.
An average egg lives for about 24 hours after being released. For conception, the ovum needs to be fertilized by a sperm during this time period. If the egg meets a healthy sperm on its way to the uterus, the process of creating a new life begins. If it doesn’t, the egg ends its journey to the uterus and disintegrates.
If you haven’t conceived, the ovaries stop making the hormones estrogen and progesterone. These are the two hormones, which help in maintaining the pregnancy. When the levels of these hormones decrease, the thick lining of the uterus is shed during menstruation. Also, the remains of unfertilized eggs are also released at the same time.
Inside the male body: how sperm are made?
The female body makes one egg mature every month. At the same time, the body of men is almost constantly at work and produces millions of microscopic sperms. The sole purpose of each sperm is to reach and permeate the ovum.
It takes about 10 weeks for a new sperm cell to form from beginning to end. The average sperm survives only a few weeks in a man’s body. At least 40 million sperms come out with each ejaculation. This means that men have to produce sperm regularly throughout their adult lives.
The hormones that control ovulation in women stimulate the production of testosterone in men. Testosterone hormone is responsible for the production of sperms in men.
The production of sperms begins in the testicles. The testicles are two glands in the scrotal sac below the penis. The testicles hang outside the body, as they are very sensitive to temperature. They must be kept at a temperature of 34 °C to efficiently produce healthy spermatozoa. It is about four degrees cooler than the normal body temperature.
Once sperm is formed, it is stored in the epididymis of both testicles. It is a six-meter-long waxed tube. Just before ejaculation, the sperm comes upwards and mixes into the semen.
Despite producing millions of spermatozoa and coming out with each ejaculation, only one sperm can fertilize each egg. The gender of your baby depends on which of your sperm meets the ovum first. Sperm with a Y chromosome will give birth to a son and a sperm with an X chromosome will give birth to a daughter.
There are many myths prevalent that tell how to conceive in order to have a son or daughter. There may be some scientific evidence for some of this, but overall the sex determination of the baby may not be planned.
What happens during intercourse?
Along with the pleasure that comes during sex, there is also increasing tension in your body, which ends by reaching climax. Reaching peak pleasure is also an important biological process. In men, orgasm pushes sperm-rich semen into the vagina and it travels towards the cervix at a rate of about 10 miles per hour. The speed of ejaculation gives the sperm a good start to reach the egg.
It is not necessary for a woman to reach a climax for conception. Mild contractions of the uterus can also help move sperm forward, but these contractions also happen without reaching orgasm.
Many couples wonder whether a particular stage of intercourse is better for conception. No one has a definite answer to this. The most important thing about intercourse is that both of you enjoy it and make love on a regular basis.
It is not the case that all women ovulate in the middle of their cycle or ovulate at the same time every month in their cycle. Try to have intercourse every second or third day during your entire menstrual cycle to increase your chances of conception.
When you relax after intercourse, the sperm gets to work.
There’s not much you can do at this point in time, just hope you conceive. After sex, when you and your husband are expressing love by hugging each other, there will be a lot going on inside your body at that time. Those millions of sperm will begin the quest to find the ovum, and it’s not an easy journey.
The first blockage maybe your cervical mucus, which may seem like an impenetrable mesh during your fertile days. However, when you are most fertile, this mucus miraculously loosens up so that the strongest swimmer sperm can pass through it.
The sperm that still survives still have a long way to go. Altogether they have to take about 18 cm to reach the fallopian tubes from the uterus through the cervix. Have to travel.
It is to be thought that this sperm will move about 2.5 cm every 15 minutes. If you travel at that rate, it appears to be a long journey. The fastest swimming sperm can find the egg in as little as 45 minutes. At the same time, it can take up to 12 hours for the slowest swimmer. If sperm doesn’t get to an egg in the fallopian tube at the time of intercourse, they can live inside your body for up to seven days. This means that if you ovulate during this time period, you can conceive.
Sperm mortality is very high and only a few dozen sperms reach the egg. The rest of the sperm gets stuck somewhere, gets lost (perhaps into the wrong fallopian tube), or dies on the way.
Even for the lucky few sperm that make it to the egg, the race is not over yet. Each has to diligently penetrate the outer layer of the ovum and enter before the others. The egg has to be fertilized within 24 hours after it is released.
When the strongest sperm reaches the egg, the egg undergoes an immediate change so that no other sperm can enter. It is like a protective shield, which completely envelops the egg as soon as the first sperm reaches safely inside.
It may take a few weeks for you to miss your period and get the confirmation that you are pregnant. A home pregnancy test will confirm if you miss your period or experience any other pregnancy symptoms. If you are pregnant, congratulations to you. Welcome to the beginning of another wonderful journey.