Understanding how the body functions is particularly important since it has the ability to let you know when something is not right. Fertility is a key function to the body. Hence, understanding fertility in the female body will give you insight to what is happening when you try to conceive naturally.
A baby girl has about one to two million eggs in her ovaries which are called primary oocytes. At puberty, the number of eggs in her ovaries will decline to about 500,000. When the eggs fully develop, thin granulosa cells surround them. These cells are inside a follicle, which protects and nourishes the egg for at least 50 years, halting it from aging or maturing.
Follicles start to grow. If growth is not prime, the eggs die due to a lack of nourishment. When that happens, the follicles undergo atresia, where the ovary absorbs the follicle cells back. Atresia is a continual process until a woman experiences menopause.
When an egg becomes mature and when the dominant follicle releases it, the processes below begin:
- Luteinizing hormone production
- After a few hours, cell division or meiosis happens where the egg (the primary oocyte) will now have 23 chromosomes.
- Then, the follicle surrounding the egg will secrete mucus to form a barrier (cumulus). Beneath the cumulus is a membrane called zona pellucida. The sperm must traverse through the barrier to fertilize the egg.
- Once fertilization occurs, the egg usually stays in the fallopian tube for about 12 to 24 hours right after ovulation.