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THE START OF LIFE

DURING THE FIRST EIGHT WEEK of pregnancy, the baby develops from a single cell at conception to a fetus that is starting to look human.

Ovulation

Around day 14 of your menstrual cycle, a ripe egg is released from one of your ovaries, and fertilization becomes possible. The egg is caught by the fingers at the end of the fallopian tube, and drawn into it. The egg can survive for up to 24 hours, if it isnít fertilized, it passes out of the vagina with the lining of the womb in your next monthly period.

The swim of the sperm

During orgasm, a man may ejaculate between 200 and 400 million sperm into a woman's vagina. Many spill out again, or are lost along the way, but some swim through the mucus secreted by the cervix (the back of the womb), which becomes thin and strechy around ovulation, and cross the womb into the fallopian tube. If an egg hasn't been released, the sperm can survive in the tube for up to 48 hours

Fertilization

Sperm carry a substance that can dissolve the outer covering of the egg, so that one of them can penetrate it. As soon as the successful sperm enters the egg, no other sperm can get through. The sperm loses its tail and its head begins to swell. It fuses with the egg, formin a single cell.

The cell divides

Almost at once, the cell starts to divide. It carries on dividing into more and more cells, as it travels down the fallopian tube

Reaching the womb

On about the fourth day after fertilization the egg reaches the cavity of the womb.It has developed into a ball of about 100 cells with a hollow, fluid filled centre, but it is still too small to be seen by the naked eye. For the next few days it floats about in the womb cavity.

Implantation

The fertilized egg begins to embed itself in the soft, thick lining of the womb at about the end of week three. This is called implantation. When the egg is securely attached to the lining of the womb, conception is complete. Sponge-like fingers from the outer cells of the embryo start to burrow into the lining, to link up with the motherís blood vessels. These later form the placenta. Some of the cells also develop into the umbilical cord, and the membranes that protects the baby. The inner cells divide into three layers, which develop into the different parts of your baby's body.
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