With nearly four million births every year in the United States alone, it is no wonder that we take the certainty of reproduction for granted. However, it is estimated that 20% of couples will have difficulty conceiving a child. It is often helpful for couples to gain a better understanding of the reproductive cycle as well as the possible causes of infertility. This section will guide you through the entire reproductive process.
During ovulation an egg is released from the ovary and is swept into the fallopian tube by hair-like fimbria.
After intercourse, sperm swim up the vagina, pass through the cervix into the uterus and continue on into the fallopian tube. Although millions of sperm are ejaculated, only a few hundred survive the journey through the reproductive tract.
When sperm reach the egg, they attempt to fertilize the egg by tunneling through its protective coating. Once it is fertilized, the egg is referred to as a zygote. At the time of implantation in the uterine lining it is then referred to as an embryo.
Several days after fertilization, the fertilized egg (zygote) is moved from the fallopian tube to the uterus through a series of muscular contractions.
A few days later, the embryo imbeds itself in the uterine lining. At this point, a woman's body begins to secrete a pregnancy hormone known as hCG. This hormone maintains production of progesterone from the ovary, a crucial factor in maintaining a pregnancy.