The Ovarian Cycle – where pregnancy begins

Each month, or ovarian cycle, the ovaries produce about 20 ova which are housed inside fluid filled sacs called follicles.

In the first half of the ovarian cycle, they begin to mature, one will outgrow the others and once matured will rupture. The remaining follicles will shrivel up, causing the eggs inside to die.

It is between the ages of eleven and fifteen of a young women’s life, that the stimulation between the hypothalamus and pituitary glands have enough strength to cause a follicle to rupture and cause an egg cell to be released. This initial egg cell is called an ovum.

When does ovulation occur?

Ovulation occurs about 400 times throughout the course of a woman’s life, and although most of her egg cells are never used, by about the age of 50, out of the original half million eggs, there are no healthy ova left.

It occurs about every 28 days and approximately 14 days before the start of your period. In other words, about half way through your menstrual cycle.

Ovulation actually occurs pretty quickly, usually within a minute or two. It is the release of an egg from either of the alternating ovaries and is part of the regular menstrual cycle.

What happens after ovulation?

After ovulation occurs, the ruptured follicle that caused the egg to be released is then stimulated by the luteinising hormone, which is a second pituitary hormone. It contains thousands of tiny cells that provide nourishment and protection to the ovum and causes the follicle to develop into the corpus luteum.

The corpus luteum is a yellowish organ that is responsible for producing progesterone, which is the second ovarian hormone, it also produces smaller amounts of oestrogen. Progesterone is essential for the development of the embryo.

When these two hormones build up, they thicken the lining of the uterus to prepare for the arrival of the fertilized egg.

If the egg doesn’t get fertilized the corpus luterum will remain for another ten days and will then stop producing hormones. Without the circulation of oestrogen and progesterone, the lining inside of the uterus begins to break down and is then shed with the start of the new menstruation cycle.

If a embryo has been planted on the lining of the uterus, the corpus luteum continues to release progesterone. Progesterone is vital to keep the pregnancy healthy, it also stops the menstrual cycle from occuring.

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