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Blog-3 – All you need to know about reproduction

Most science students have to study about reproduction in their high school syllabus, and some learn from their parents, who may discuss it even earlier. It’s a very good thing to know about our own bodies, especially when changes are occurring.

All you need to know about reproduction
Dr. Amita Phadnis, Pediatrician

Most science students have to study about reproduction in their curriculum when they are in the 11th or 12th grade. A few lucky children learn about the topic from their parents. It’s a very good thing, as it’s always good to know about our own bodies, especially when changes are occurring.

The female reproductive system has the following main parts: the uterus, the cervix , two tubes – right and left, two ovaries right and left, and the vagina.

Normally a menstrual cycle lasts from 28 to 30 days. The beginning of a cycle is when the bleeding starts. In a regular cycle, an egg (ovum) starts growing and ovulates, or the follicle ruptures, by mid-cycle, which is approximately around the 14th day. If intercourse/ sexual contact occurs at this time, sperm travels through the uterus and tubes and fertilizes the ovum, resulting in formation of a baby (embryo). This embryo then travels back to the uterine cavity and gets implanted in the endometrium. If the ovum is not fertilized it leaves the uterine cavity and the endometrium is shed after 14 days – resulting in periods.

For a successful conception and pregnancy, the following needs to be in good condition: The release of a healthy ovum, healthy tubes, normal sperm count with good motility, sperm which can penetrate the cervical mucus, endometrium which is capable of implanting the embryo, and finally, a normal uterine cavity for the proper growth of the baby. A defect in any of these aspects can lead to difficulty in conception.

The definition of infertility is an inability of a couple to conceive after one year of regular unprotected intercourse. Generally, investigations and treatment of a couple should start if they are unable to conceive after a year of trying, but there are exceptions. For example, a doctor can suggest that a couple start investigations if the woman is more than 35 years old, has a very irregular menstrual cycle. Other obvious causes to initiate investigations include either person suffering from a major illness or the inability to have intercourse.

One of the commonest misconceptions about conception is that it can occur after having intercourse around 2-3 days before and after a woman’s periods. This is not true, as ovulation occurs somewhere in mid-cycle (around the 14th day in a 28-day cycle). Hence couples who desire to conceive should have unprotected intercourse on alternate days from day 10 to day 18 of a regular 28-30 days cycle. This is called the “unsafe” period. Days other than these are “safe” for couples who want to avoid pregnancy. This “safe method” is used by many couples as a natural method of contraception, but failure rates are high and accidental/unwanted pregnancies often result.

For a couple who are unable to conceive, it seems very unfair to see couples with unwanted pregnancies who want to terminate the pregnancy. However, there is good news for such couples. The advancement of science has made it possible to successfully treat the most complicated cases of infertility. Of course science still hasn’t found a way to transfer an already conceived, unwanted pregnancy to the uterus of an infertile lady!!!

 

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