For many people, pregnancy seems like a natural part of life. They don’t think much about the process of actually getting pregnant. But for the 6.1 million women in the United States who struggle with infertility, the process of getting pregnant is incredibly important.
If you’re one of these women, or if you’re just interested in the science behind pregnancy, you’ve come to the right place. There are many factors that go into getting pregnant, but they don’t have to be overwhelming.
Read on to learn about conception and implantation and more!
At What Age Can I Get Pregnant?
There are a lot of myths surround the ages at which a woman is most fertile.
Women can become pregnant from the time they begin menstruating — around ages 12-14. Fertility lasts through menopause, but that doesn’t mean you have an equal chance at becoming pregnant from the start of menstruation through menopause.
For most women, fertility is at its highest in their 20s. Fertility begins to decline when women are in their 30s, but the sharpest decline begins at age 35. So, while women in their 40s are still capable of becoming pregnant, their chances are significantly lower, and the eggs are of poorer quality.
Are There Any Hindrances to Getting Pregnant?
Apart from age, there are several conditions that can make getting pregnant difficult.
One of the major hindrances to pregnancy is polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS). PCOS is a condition in which women have irregular or no periods due to the ovaries’ failure to regularly release an egg. Women with PCOS have higher levels of testosterone, are at higher risk for diabetes and obesity, and may suffer from excess body hair or hair loss.
Other factors that contribute to infertility include: excess weight, high levels of stress, eating disorders, alcohol or drug use, and intense exercise. Fertility can also be hindered by damage to the fallopian tubes or uterus by things like endometriosis, uterine polyps, and pelvic inflammatory disease, among many other things.
The best thing to do if you’re struggling with fertility is to meet with your doctor to discuss your options.
What is Ovulation?
Ovulation is the process by which your body grows and releases eggs for fertilization. Every month, your body grows eggs in fluid-filled sacs within your ovaries called follicles. Approximately two weeks before you’re due to start your period, your body releases an egg from a follicle.
Once the egg is released, the follicle develops a corpus luteum which releases a hormone that causes your uterus to thicken its lining and prepare for the egg. The egg stays in the fallopian tube for about 24 hours. It is at this point when you are most likely to become pregnant.
How Does the Egg Become Fertilized?
When the egg is in the fallopian tubes, it is primed and ready to be fertilized. Fertilization occurs after sexual activity when sperm is released into the female sex organs.
Sperm travels from the vagina up through the cervix and into the uterus. Contractions within the uterus help propel the sperm up through into the fallopian tubes. The sperm must then burrow into the egg and fertilize it.
Once a sperm successfully enters the egg, the egg becomes impenetrable so no other sperm can get in. It is at this time that your future baby’s genes and sex are set. Sperm with Y chromosomes become boys, and sperm with X chromosomes become girls.
What is Implantation?
After fertilization, the egg remains in the fallopian tubes for a few days. In the first 24 hours after fertilization, it begins dividing into a lot of cells as it descends into the uterus. Once the egg reaches the uterus, it must then attach itself to the lining of the uterus.
After implantation, the lining of the uterus gets thicker and the cervix is sealed by a mucus plug. This is where it will stay until you give birth. Women may notice some spotting around this time for a couple of days.
What are Pregnancy Hormones?
Once your egg becomes fertilized, human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) starts being produced in increasing quantities by the body.
hCG helps your body produce higher amounts of estrogen and progesterone and it suppresses your immune system to aid in the development of your baby. Pregnancy tests check for levels of hCG in order to produce a positive result. This is why it is more difficult to test for pregnancy during the first week of conception.
While hCG starts the boosted levels of estrogen and progesterone, it is the placenta that takes over once it develops. These increased levels of hormones are a major contributing factor to morning sickness.
What Do I Do When I Become Pregnant?
Once you become pregnant, you’ll want to take steps to keep your baby healthy. If you’re a smoker or drinker, you’ll need to stop immediately. And while you’ll no doubt have a myriad of pregnancy cravings, you’ll want to avoid certain foods like sushi and soft cheeses, among others.
If you have questions about what you can and can’t do during pregnancy, then you should talk to your doctor about what will work best for you.
Want to Learn More About Conception and Implantation?
Pregnancy is a scientific process that requires everything to fall into place in order for a woman to become pregnant.
It’s far more than just conception and implantation. It’s also timing, hormones, and more than a little bit of good luck. If you’re still struggling with becoming pregnant, you should speak with your doctor about your options.
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