We all know how to get pregnant; for most women it just takes sexual intercourse. However, some women can also become pregnant via fertility treatments such as artificial insemination or In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Artificial insemination and IVF are discussed in more detail in steps nine and ten of this article (also see links).
But whether via sexual intercourse, artificial insemination or IVF, you may be wondering what has to happen biologically in order to get pregnant. If you're trying to conceive a baby, here are some of the best ways to get pregnant.
- In order for conception to occur, the man and woman must be fertile. The man must have viable sperm. The sperm must be strong, mobile and there has to be a lot of sperm for conception to occur. Sperm contains the genetic code needed for fertilization. Sperm looks like a tiny oval with a long, wiggly tail. The tail is what helps the sperms to swim.
- In the female, ovulation must occur. The best way to get pregnant naturally is to have intercourse when the woman ovulates. Ovulation is when the ovaries release an egg (containing the woman's genetic code) into the fallopian tubes. There the egg waits for the sperm to come and fertilize it. An egg is only viable for about twenty-four hours after ovulation, so the sperm doesn't have a lot of time. Ovulation only occurs about once a month, depending on a woman's cycle. Knowing when this happens is not an exact science. If you have a regular twenty-eight day cycle, ovulation occurs about fourteen days after the first day of your last menstrual cycle. Other indicators include increased basal temperature, a change in cervical mucus (it becomes like egg white) and perhaps a small cramping pain in the lower abdomen. You can also take an ovulation predictor test that looks for a surge in luteinizing hormone (LH). If you take the predictor test, follow the directions very carefully.
- When you have sex, semen is injected into the vagina. Semen contains (among other things) sperm. The sperm swims through the vagina until it reaches the cervix, a tiny doorway to the uterus. The sperm passes through the cervix and enters the uterus.
- The sperm continues to swim into the uterus until it reaches the fallopian tubes. There are two fallopian tubes branching off the uterus. Once the group of sperm reaches the fallopian tubes, it splits into two, and approximately half of the sperm go into each fallopian tube.
- In the fallopian tube, if ovulation has occurred, an egg is waiting to be fertilized. If ovulation hasn't occurred, the sperm will live inside a woman's body, waiting for ovulation, for about three to five days before disintegrating. This is why a lot of couples trying to get pregnant will have intercourse before ovulation as well as during--the sperm will be there when ovulation occurs.
- Once the egg is fertilized, conception occurs. The egg is now a big ball of cells becoming bigger with each passing hour. The fertilized egg moves back down the fallopian tube and into the uterus. There it implants itself into the uterine lining. A rudimentary placenta starts producing the hormone hCG or human chorionic gonadotropin. hCG is also called the pregnancy hormone. It is this hormone that home pregnancy tests look for.
- Now that the fertilized egg has been implanted into the uterus, it begins the complex cycle to create a baby. You will probably not even know you are pregnant, but your body has already gone through numerous changes.
- Contact your care provider if you've been trying for a year to become pregnant, but haven't. You may want to discuss your reproductive options with your doctor. There are many reproductive options available now, everything from fertility drugs that promote ovulation called clomiphene and gonadotropins (note that the brand names of these drugs are different) to IVF or In Vitro Fertilization (where fertilized eggs are implanted into a mother's uterus). There are a number of fertility treatment options that you can speak to your care provider about for more information.
- You can also use artificial insemination to become pregnant. Artificial insemination, now also called intrauterine insemination (IUI), is when sperm is introduced into the uterus using means other than sex. Many couples use artificial insemination if the woman has an allergy to her partner's sperm or her partner's sperm has a low count or poor mobility. Many women also opt for artificial insemination from a donor for a number of reasons. Artificial insemination takes a great deal of effort to be successful. The woman's ovulation cycle is carefully determined and she will likely be asked to take fertility drugs so ovulation is certain to occur. The sperm is 'washed' so the strongest and best sperm are used. The doctor will then place a catheter through the woman's cervix and next to her fallopian tubes so the sperm has the best chance of reaching her egg. (Please see the link for more information.)
- In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) refers to a reproductive therapy that is very successful for many couples in helping them get pregnant. In IVF, the women's eggs are removed, fertilized by her partner's or a donor's sperm and then implanted back into her uterus. (Please see the link for more information.)
If you're wondering, "How do I get pregnant?" hopefully this article has offered some advice for your options.