Ovulation

Each month, under the influence of your reproductive hormones, one of your ovaries selects between 10 and 20 eggs to become possible candidates for release. The number of eggs decreases with age until menopause, when ovulation stops completely. The chosen eggs begin to mature within their own sacs, called follicles. In most cases, only one follicle matures and one egg is released each month. Some women feel a cramp on one side of their pelvic region during this time. Next, the egg moves into one of the fallopian tubes, where it can be fertilized by a man's sperm. The remaining partially developed eggs and follicles will disintegrate. That's why it's a myth that fertility treatments use up a woman's eggs more quickly than normal. In any given cycle, the same number of eggs are recruited and selected for possible ovulation. However, with fertility treatments, more of those chosen eggs are able to develop further and ovulate with the potential to become an embryo, whereas normally only one egg is released during ovulation.

In most cases, ovulation occurs about 14 days before the start of your next menstrual period. That means if you have an average 28-day menstrual cycle, ovulation will occur on about day 14. If you have a 30-day cycle, ovulation will probably occur on day 16, and so on. Timing is critical for pregnancy to occur. Pregnancy can only occur if you have sexual intercourse during or near the time of ovulation. Once the egg has been released, it is able to be fertilized during that specific 12-to-24-hour period. Given that sperm may live as long as 72 hours, you have approximately a three-day window each month to conceive.

Eggs

Many people are surprised to learn that the human eggs are the largest cells in the human body. The human egg is about the size of a grain of sand and can actually be seen by the human eye without a microscope. Eggs are also sometimes referred to as ova or oocytes.

The human egg has a very similar framework to that of the chicken egg. The center of the human egg holds the nucleus and all of the genetic material, which is comparable to the chicken egg's yellow yolk. The fluid that surrounds the center is called the ooplasm and contains tiny structures that provide energy and nourishment for the egg. This surrounding fluid can be compared to the egg white in the chicken egg. The human egg is surrounded by several protective layers. The innermost layer, called the perivitelline membrane, is similar to the membrane found just inside of the chicken egg shell. The middle layer, called the zona pellucida, is much like the shell of a chicken egg. The third and outer layer is called the cumulus granulose. This is a special thick and firm protective layer.

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