Pregnancy can be the most challenging process in a woman life. It involves a lot of changes. One of crucial phases in pregnancy is conception (fertilization that occurs when sperm meets egg). To clearly understand it and how long it takes, the following are pieces of helpful information.
Menstrual cycle is a sign of reproductive age in a woman. It starts with menstruation, the normal monthly menstrual discharge of blood that comes from the thickened lining of uterus.
How long the menstrual bleeding lasts can vary from woman to woman. But typically, it lasts about 3-7 days. In the first 2 days of menstruation, you usually have the heaviest in terms of menstrual bleeding.
The next cycle of menstruation can occur on the next 21 – 35 day, this can vary. If your cycle is less or more frequently than this, it’s better to see a doctor to make sure that your menstrual period is normal.
The first half phase of menstrual cycle
This has 3 major goals:
- To make maturation of an egg.
- To release the egg from the ovary into the fallopian tube for fertilization.
- To prepare the uterus lining for implantation of a fertilized egg.
In this phase, both FSH (follicle-stimulating hormone) and estrogen play a key role from making maturation of an egg to the thickened uterus lining.
In the end of this phase, ovulation occurs (the time of when the fully ripened-egg is released from the ovary to the fallopian tube). Therefore, if you have regular period, and each cycle takes about 28 days, the day of your ovulation (the most fertile you are for pregnancy) occurs about 14 days after the first day of your menstruation.
The second half phase of menstrual cycle
This phase starts after ovulation has occurred. The major goal of this phase is to support pregnancy.
The body release progesterone ‘whether or not conception occurs’ for about two weeks after ovulation. This is purposed to help the fertilized egg (embryo) to implant on the uterus lining.
If you have intercourse in the days of your ovulation, there is greater chance for conception to occur. The released egg in ovulation can meet to the sperm which then become fertilized.
The ovulation can take about 2 days. The time for egg to travel from ovary to fallopian tube takes about 24 hours. After arriving in the fallopian tube, the egg will stay there about one day, waiting for any sperm for fertilization.
If there is no fertilization, the egg moves to the uterus and disintegrate. Without attached embryo into the thickened uterus lining, it signals that there is no pregnancy and the progesterone production stops.
Then the thickened uterus lining is going to shed, you notice it as discharge of blood in the first day of your menstruation.
Sperm is the male gamete and made in the testes. The production of sperm starts at the time of puberty (at the ages of 11-14 year). It can continue until a male dies.
To get conception, good quality of sperm is so essential (see this section for in-depth information).
The egg (female gamete) is housed in the female ovaries. Women can have about 1-2 million of eggs at birth. And this number declines to about 300,000 by the time they get their puberty.
Once women have their menstruation, egg is released in the middle of each cycle, as noted before. On average, women will release about 500 eggs over their reproductive ages. In menopause, the remaining eggs are not released and die out in the ovary.
After intercourse, the sperms move up through opening of uterus called cervix. Then they continuously swim up through uterus (womb) into the fallopian tubes, finding an egg for fertilization. This process can take about 20 minutes or less.
If there is a matured egg, a sperm wriggles its way through the capsule of egg, and fertilization occurs. In fertilization, the female DNA of egg combines with the male DNA of sperm.
The complete process of conception takes about 18 hours after the sperm has discovered the egg in the fallopian tubes. Once egg and sperm have come together, this results what we call as ‘zygote’ which then travel to the uterus.