Sunday, February 20, 2011


Again, there is an idea that this whole process of making a baby is easy. I mean, when I was on birth control it was drilled into my head that if I missed one pill I would get knocked up. And I was not alone. A few weeks ago I was having dinner with some great girlfriends. None of them have decided to start the journey to having a baby yet. So, as we sat around the dinner table we began to discuss exactly what happens to a woman each month in order to conceive a baby. I think I frightened them. The truth is that each couple only has a 20-25% chance of conception each month. When I heard that number I thought "holy crap, I wouldn't bet on that."

So what is it that makes this so difficult?

I'll tell you. When a woman starts her cycle (aka her period) she begins a recruitment phase called the "follicular phase." Even in the first few days follicles begin to develop in both ovaries. There can be many follicles developing at once. During the first couple weeks these follicles grow and then as we near ovulation (when the egg releases) one follicle, the largest follicle, becomes dominent. At this point the other follicles stop growing and reabsorb into the ovary. There ends up being one egg on one ovary that will be released for the possibility of conception. Of course there are some instances where two eggs are released resulting in twins.

So, around CD 14, which is crap because every women is a little different, some women ovulate on day 12 and others on day 22, that mature follicle or egg is released from the ovary. These little finger type cells coax the egg into the fallopian tube. The 10cm-11cm of the fallopian tube is the road to the uterus, and the place where conception happens.

Once the egg is released from the ovary (ovulation) it is only viable for 24 hours. In that time it must be fertilized by waiting sperm. If sperm is not available, there is not conception. Other limiting factors include poor quality sperm or poor quality egg. If the genetics are off in either, or the match is not a strong one, conception will not occur. Then sometimes, conception does occur, the chemical reactions happen, but the actual embryo (future baby) is never created (chemical pregnancy).

The last hurdle is that the now fertilized egg must implant into the uterus. This means that a womans uterus must have blood and nutrient rich lining that can house the embryo. She must have a long enough luteal phase. The luteal phase is the part of the menstrual cycle that occurs after ovulation. In this phase a hormone called progesterone is secreted which creates and maintains this plentiful enviornment in the uterus for the embryo. You must have adequate progesterone to sustain pregnancy. You must not have an imbalance of progesterone that causes early "spotting" or shedding of the lining after ovulation so that an embryo cannot implant.

Lastly, your partner must have enough good quality sperm to fertilize the egg. There are many, many factors in the female body that limit the sperm once they are introduced. I hate to say it but the sperm really enter a war zone once they enter the womans body. I recently watched a film about this journey and it was really eye opening. It is called "The Great Sperm Race." You can find in on YouTube, and its a six part series, the entire thing is about an hour long. It explains this journey using human beings as the sperm, so you really can get an good idea of the amount of sperm that die on their way to meet the egg.

Link to part 1:

Its really not that easy! This is why doctors say that a healthy couple where the woman is under age 35 and man under 40 should give themselves a full year to conceive. If either partner is above these ages the timeline goes to 6 months, as advanced age limits your time alottment to be able to conceive and carry a baby.

Whew....there is your conception lesson of the day.
Getting pregnant is not easy, people think it is, but thats just a misconception.

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