How Reproduction Works
If you're aiming to become pregnant, it's essential to have an understanding of the mechanics behind female reproduction and male reproduction. Most of what you need to know has to do with timing: learning about the most fertile times in your cycle so you know when you should have intercourse. This section is the place in which you can learn all about these issues that are so basic to conception.
Every month, a woman's body undergoes certain changes all aimed at helping the ovaries to release eggs. But not all eggs go on to become fertilized. When they don't undergo fertilization, the natural result is menstruation. This monthly routine is known as the menstrual cycle.
The day you get your period is called day one of your menstrual cycle. The average menstrual cycle is 28 days, but it's quite normal for a woman to have a cycle with a range of anywhere between 24-34 days. A woman's cycle may also vary so that the day count changes each month.
At the onset of the menstrual cycle, a woman's hormone levels dip to their lowest signaling the body to step up hormone production. A woman's egg follicles can produce as many as 20 eggs; however, only one egg is likely to reach maturity. Once an egg matures, it is released, moving into the fallopian tube about midway through the menstrual cycle.
The release of the egg into the fallopian tubes is called ovulation. Estrogen levels have reached their peak, setting off a burst of LH or luteinizing hormone, and causing the egg's release through the wall of the ovary and on into the fallopian tube.
If the average menstrual cycle is 28 days long, the average point of ovulation would be at 14 days into the cycle, or two weeks from the start of the last menstrual period. But again, there is a great deal of leeway for what is termed normal: ovulation may take place at anywhere from 12-18 days before the next menstrual period. When ovulation occurs, a woman is at her most fertile and has the best chance for becoming pregnant.
During the time of a woman's cycle when hormone levels crest, in addition to ovulation, or the release of the egg, the lining of the uterus, known as the endometrium, begins to thicken in expectation of accepting the possible implantation of a fertilized egg.
But something else also happens at the time of ovulation: the cervical mucus changes in texture. It goes from being thick and dry, to becoming slippery and thin. This type of mucus is meant to boost the sperm's journey to the egg.
After ovulation, the sides of the fallopian tubes spasm to encourage the egg to move down and out of the tube and into the uterus. A fertilized egg will hopefully implant within the endometrium. But if the egg is not fertilized, egg and endometrium will disintegrate and shed, resulting in a woman's next menstrual period.