As a women starts her menstrual cycle, hormonal changes cause the ovaries to produce follicles. One of these follicles grows faster than the others and will eventually become the ‘dominant follicle’, releasing an egg at ovulation.
During ovulation, this egg travels into the fallopian tubes, which connect the ovaries to the uterus (womb).
Fertilisation occurs when a sperm cell travels up the fallopian tubes and penetrates the outer layer of the egg.
The fertilised egg continues to the uterus where it implants in the lining (or endometrium) and pregnancy begins. If the egg is not fertilised, or the embryo does not progress, the endometrium is shed as a menstrual period approximately 14 days after ovulation.
During a woman’s monthly cycle the ovaries produce hormones including oestrogen which help the follicles grow and progesterone, which prepares the uterus for pregnancy after ovulation.
When is the best time to get pregnant?
Most women ovulate around 14 days after the first day of their last period but this varies from woman to woman.
An egg lives for about 12-24 hours after it’s released so to get pregnant a sperm must fertilise the egg within this time. Sperm can live for up to seven days inside your body.
To maximise your chances of getting pregnant you should have sex every couple of days so there are always sperm waiting in the fallopian tubes to meet the egg when it is released.
Read about infertility
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