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Fertilisation is the more scientific term for conception, a 3 step process, which occurs during the first two weeks of pregnancy and ends with the fusion of the father’s sperm and the mother’s egg or ovum.

Step 1 involves the production of gametes, the cells which carry all of the genetic information necessary for reproduction. These gametes, AKA the sperm and the egg, will ultimately fuse together to create the embryo. Gametes are produced by meiosis or cell division, which is a process constantly occurring in our bodies. The egg is produced by meiosis in the mother’s ovarian follicles while sperm are produced by meiosis in the father’s testes. Once these gametes are formed and ready to go, it is time for step 2: sexual intercourse.

In step 2 the father ejaculates hundreds of millions of sperm into the mother’s vagina, unfortunately most of these sperm do not make it any further. From there the surviving sperm use their tadpole like tails to swim up the cervix towards the fallopian tube where the egg (which only has 12-24 hours to be fertilised) is waiting. The sperm that survive this journey or race, which can last as long as 3 days, then attach to the egg in hopes of being the first to penetrate it.

Step 3 is the sperm’s penetration of the egg which signals the successful fusion of the two gametes. There are enzymes on the sticky head or acrosome of each sperm which breakdown the egg’s protective shell allowing penetration. So really the speediest sperm with the fastest acting enzymes will be the ultimate winner of this race. Once the sperm has successfully penetrated the egg, the egg will release several hormones which prevent any other sperm from penetrating it.

And tadah! After 3 challenging steps you have a zygote which will soon be your baby’s embryo.

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