How you conceive: A Closer Look into Eggs and Sperms

By Medically reviewed by Hello Doktor Medical Panel

Conception is the time when the egg and sperm meet. It can take anything from 45 minutes to 12 hours for a sperm to approach your fallopian tubes – where conception usually occurs. However, sperm can survive inside your body for up to seven days. So, conception can occur at any point in the week after sex if you are ovulating.

Let’s learn more about this amazing journey, and how life starts!

How an egg is hatched

For women, the possibility of pregnancy starts in the ovaries. These are the two small and oval organs attached to either side of your womb. The ovaries are wrapped with eggs made when you are still inside your mother’s womb. Each baby girl is born with 1 to 2 million eggs in her ovaries. Many eggs begin dying off almost instantly and the rest steadily reduce in number as you get older. You will probably release about 400 eggs during your fertile years, between your first period and the menopause.

Throughout each menstrual cycle, sometime after your period, one to three eggs begin to reach maturity in one of your ovaries. The ripest egg is then set free through a process called ovulation. The egg is sucked up by the tulip-shaped opening of the nearest fallopian tube. There are two fallopian tubes, each approximately 10cm in length, which lead from the ovaries to the uterus. Ovulation is typically time before your next period (about 12 to 14 days). The exact time of ovulation relies on the length of your cycle. Several different hormones work together to manage the length of your cycle, when your eggs ripen and the timing of ovulation.

The average egg lives for up to 24 hours after being released. It needs to be fertilized within this time by a sperm for a baby to be conceived. If your egg is able to meet a healthy sperm on its way to the uterus, the process of creating a new life starts. If not, the egg’s journey comes to and end at the uterus and disintegrates. If you have not conceived, the ovary stops releasing estrogen and progesterone. These are the two hormones that would help keep a pregnancy. When the levels of these hormones decrease, the thickened lining of your uterus is shed during your period. The remains of the unfertilized egg are shed simultaneously.

How sperm are made

While a mature woman only releases one egg every month, a man’s body is almost continuously at work, creating millions of microscopic sperms. The sole purpose of each sperm is to swim towards and enter the egg. It takes two to three months to form a new sperm cell. The average sperm lives only a few weeks in the body of a man and at least 40 million are released with each ejaculation. It means that men have to make sperm on a regular basis during their adult lives.

The same hormones managing ovulation in women encourage the release of testosterone in men. Testosterone is the hormone being in charge of producing sperm. Sperm production begins in the testicles – the two glands in the scrotal sac beneath the penis. The testicles hang outside the body as they are sensitive to temperature. To creating healthy sperm efficiently, they have to stay at 34 degrees C. This is about four degrees cooler than the temperature of a normal body. When the sperm is formed, it is stored in each testicle in the epididymis, a 6-metre long coiled tube. Just before ejaculation, the sperm is scooped up and mixed with semen.

In spite of the millions of sperm that are produced and released in each ejaculation, only one can fertilize an egg. The gender of your baby relies on which kind of sperm gets into the egg first. The sperm with a Y chromosome will create a baby boy and the sperm with an X chromosome will create a baby girl.


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Review Date: March 26, 2017 | Last Modified: November 25, 2019

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