Amit and Shreya have been trying for a baby/trying to conceive since the last three months. They are in their late 20s and a bit clueless about why it is not happening, especially when they are having sex so frequently. Shreya convinced Amit to visit a gynaecologist to check if everything is ok.
Dr. Kumar greeted them happily and asked them to relax. There was no need to panic yet, he said. He then asked Amit if he knows how pregnancy happens?
‘Doctor, it’s not rocket science. Pregnancy happens when you have unprotected sex,’ Amit answered.
‘Sahi jawaab!’ Dr. Kumar smiled, adding, ‘But do you know how it really happens?’
Amit was clueless.
However, Shreya, who was smiling by now. She said, ‘I have heard about safe days (when there are low chances of pregnancy) and ovulation days (when there are high chances of pregnancy). But what happens inside my body during ‘safe days’ and ‘ovulation’ phases', I really am not sure!’
Dr. Kumar then asked them to relax and not feel embarrassed. ‘Most people aren’t aware about what happens inside our body that leads to pregnancy. Wouldn’t the whole process of trying to conceive be easy if you knew what is happening inside our bodies?’
‘Let’s unravel this mystery,’ said Dr. Kumar.
Inside Shreya’s body
So let’s start from what happens inside a female’s body that leads to pregnancy. Most women begin to menstruate (or have periods) between the ages of 10 to 15 - that is they begin to ovulate and their bodies develop the ability to conceive.
‘But what is ovulation?’ Amit asked the doctor.
‘OK, let me explain in detail. I am sure Shreya knows a bit,’ Dr. Kumar said with a smile and explained the process of ovulation.
So, each month, the female reproductive system releases an ovum or an egg (female reproductive cell) from the ovaries. Ovulation usually lasts one day and occurs in the middle of a woman's menstrual cycle, that is 12-16 days (about two weeks) before she expects to get her next period.
Simply put - this is the most fertile phase of the month. A female has high chances of getting pregnant at this time.
‘So that is when we should have sex!’ Amit said excitedly as he winked at Shreya!
Dr. Kumar agreed. ‘Yes, you are right. If couples like you are trying to conceive, have unprotected sex on these days. Your chances of getting pregnant are highest at this time.’
However, a condom is always your friend if pregnancy is not on your mind!
Inside Amit’s body
‘Amit, do you know what happens inside your body?,’ the doctor asked.
‘No clue doc, please tell me,’ Amit said.
Upon reaching puberty (between the age of about 9 to15), Amit’s (or any male’s) testicles begin producing sperm cells - the male reproductive cells. Millions of tiny sperm cells reside and travel outside the male body via the semen which is discharged during an ejaculation. Semen is produced by the glands situated below the urinary bladder of the male.
Testicles are also known as Sperm Factory. Because each time a man has an ejaculation he releases nearly 100 million sperms!
‘Wow! That's too much sperm,’ Shreya was surprised.
‘But not all sperm are needed for pregnancy. It takes just one sperm to fertilize a woman's egg!’ the doctor added.
The role of sex
Now, it was the doctor's turn to explain the main part of fertilization, also known as conception. What exactly happens when you both have sex that can lead to pregnancy. Both Amit and Shreya were all ears to this.
Pregnancy most commonly occurs when a male and a female have sexual intercourse (or make love, as we say), that is the penis of the male goes inside the vagina of the female. If they wish to reproduce, the male ejaculates semen inside the vagina of the female, depositing semen (which contains sperm cells), in her vagina.
The sperm cells swim up the cervix into the uterus to meet the one ovum or mature egg that has been released by the ovaries. That is why, there are high chances of pregnancy when Shreya is ovulating or is about to ovulate.
Do you know the early signs of pregnancy? Click here.
‘How will I know I am ovulating? Are there any symptoms?’ asked Shreya.
Ovulation happens 12-16 days (about two weeks) before you expect to get your her next period. You can actually check online here and there are many ovulation strips available in the market too.
Not every woman experiences any symptoms or signs when she ovulates. However, there are certain physical changes you can look out for, such as change in the cervical mucus (it is that part of the vaginal discharge that deposits on the crotch of underwear), slight rise in body temperature etc.
Only when a female is ovulating, if a sperm enters the body it will have high chances of meeting the ovum or the egg cell. The process of the meeting of a sperm and an ovum is known as fertilization (conception). Once the ovum is fertilized, it will implant itself on the wall of the female uterus, and this is called the first stage of pregnancy.
‘Shreya, keep this in mind. The sperm can live for 2 to 3 days after getting ejaculated inside the female vagina.If you have sex before the time of ovulation, there will be a fresh sperm in your system when you ovulate,’ Dr Kumar added.
Missed periods - early signs of pregnancy?
Missed periods are usually the first sign of pregnancy. Yes, the body stops menstruating if an ovum is fertilized by a sperm. If the ovum is not fertilized, the blood cells prepared by the body for a potential pregnancy are released by the body with the next period. The ovum is reabsorbed in the body. And then one has to wait for the next cycle of ovulation to conceive. And if you are not trying to get pregnant, be super conscious during ovulation!
‘I hope this has been helpful,’ said Dr Kumar.
‘Super helpful!’ chirped Amit. ‘Yeah! We may have actually been completely missing the ovulation cycle all this while! It really helps to know what’s going on inside our bodies!’ added Shreya.
Dr. Kumar smiled and wished Amit and Shreya good luck.