Understanding Ovulation, Your Menstrual Cycle and the Female Body

Your Fertile Period and Conception

Female Body, Ovulation, and Menstrual Cycle
Female Body, Ovulation, and Menstrual Cycle. Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

The Female Body:

To understand conception, it is helpful to know about the female body, when you ovulate, and your menstrual cycle. When you are born, females already have about 400,000 eggs in their ovaries. The female body begins to ovulate during puberty. You will ovulate sometime during your menstrual cycle . About once a month, several eggs mature, and the lining of the uterus has been building.

It   has become thick to act as a “nest” for an egg to implant. An egg is then released from the ovary (this is when you ovulate). If it is not fertilized within 12-48 hours, it dies. Approximately 2 weeks later, the thick lining of your uterus begins to shed, and you have your period (begin to bleed). Your period marks the beginning of your next menstrual cycle. This continues for most of your life until you reach menopause.

When Do You Ovulate?

Ovulation is the release of a mature egg from the ovary. The follicle that is holding the egg bursts open in response to a certain hormonal signal. This frees the egg, and it then travels into the fallopian tube where it waits to be joined by a sperm. Ovulation typically occurs around 14 or 15 days from the first day of you last menstrual cycle. So, you ovulate as your egg has left the ovary

"The Fertile Period":

Once you ovulate, this is the most fertile time for the female body.

This is the time when conception can occur, and you are most likely to become pregnant. Since you have ovulated, a sperm can swim you your egg. iIf you have unprotected intercourse at this time or experience birth control failure, conception can occur. The female body is most fertile once you ovulate and can become pregnant from any unprotected sex that took place during this fertile period -- basically, from about 5 days before you ovulate to 1 day afterward.


Conception occurs after a female’s egg is fertilized by a male’s sperm. After sex, sperm are ejaculated in the vagina. They swim through the cervix and into the fallopian tubes. This is where conception usually takes place. Once a single sperm has united with the egg, conception has happened. The genetic material from the sperm and the egg has become a single nucleus (called a "zygote").


Medical experts (like the FDA and the American Medical Association) agree that the it takes several days to establish a pregnancy -- with the final step being the fertilized egg implanting in the lining of your uterus. You are only considered to be pregnant once the implantation of the zygote has occurred.

Menstrual Cycle:

So, each month the female body goes through the menstrual cycle. All of the steps in the menstrual cycle make it possible for you to become pregnant:

  1. Your menstrual cycle starts the first day of your period.
  2. Hormones trigger the lining of your uterus to thicken and prepare for a fertilized egg.
  3. You ovulate, and an egg is released from one of your ovaries.
  4. The egg has about 12-24 hours where it can be fertilized by a sperm.
    • If this happens, then conception has occurred, the egg will implant, and you'll become pregnant.
    • If this does not happen, the egg will die.
  1. If conception has not taken place, the lining of the uterus begins to shed. This leads to your period and the start of your next menstrual cycle.

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