Getting Pregnant: Understanding Conception

    There are three primary steps in conception: ovulation, fertilization, and implantation. Ovulation is the first step, the ejection of a mature egg from the ovary. Fertilization occurs when the sperm penetrates the egg. Finally, implantation is when the fertilized egg attaches to the uterus.



    Every month one of your ovaries has immature eggs that begin to develop in what are called follicles. Usually one of these follicles will begin to mature and the others will stop growing and eventually degenerate. Eventually the follicle matures and releases the egg from the ovary, this is ovulation. Ovulation typically occurs approximately two weeks prior to a woman’s menstrual period. For about twenty-four hours after ovulation the egg can be fertilized.

    For fertilization to occur sperm must be introduced to the egg and must then penetrate the egg. After the sperm enters the egg the coating around the egg is altered to keep other sperm from also penetrating the egg. It is at this moment that the genetic makeup of the baby is determined, including the sex. Because the mother is only able to provide an X chromosome the father must provide a Y chromosome if the baby is going to be a boy. If the father also provides an X chromosome the baby will be a girl.

    Within twenty-four hours after the egg has been fertilized it will begin dividing and will continue to do so as it makes its way through the fallopian tube and into the uterus. The fertilized egg will become a solid ball of cells and then a hollow ball of cells. At this point it will shed its protective coating and hormones will be released by your body to help it attach to your uterus. When the embryo attaches to your uterus you may have some slight bleeding.