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Where do babies come from, anyway?

Posted Apr 04 2009 12:00am
The ovaries are one amazing set of organs, I have learned in the few weeks following my . Both reproductive and endocrine - you might call them the command center for the hormonal workings of the female body. Before you can understand anything about premature ovarian failure, you need to understand exactly how the female reproductive and endocrine systems work.

Uterus builds up (lining) in anticipation of release of egg. Ovary releases egg. If sperm is in wait, egg should fertilize. The fertilized egg travels down the fallopian tube to the uterus and implants in the . Cue: pregnancy. If there is no sperm to fertilize the egg, then the egg and are flushed out in that lovely process known as menstruation. And then the whole process starts over again.

Let's take a look at exactly what's happening hormonally during a woman's cycle.If you've ever wondered why some women might get a little "moody" during their cycle, well, we've got a LOT going on at once hormonally in our bodies :)
The pituitary gland begins releasing (Follicle Stimulating Hormone). This primes the ovary to start maturing its follicles, the individual part of the ovary that releases the eggs. During this phase, several follicles actually develop at once, on both ovaries, but only one follicle will mature and release an egg in most normal circumstances. (estrogen) is released by the during this time, and aids in the building of the lining of the uterus.

As estrogen levels peak, it triggers the release of ( Hormone) by the pituitary gland. Of all the developing follicles, one will mature and burst, releasing the egg. It is currently unknown how the body determines which of these follicles on which ovary will release an egg. The ruptured follicle then becomes the (Latin for "yellow body"), and begins to release . Progesterone is a heat-releasing hormone, and causes a woman's (Basal Body Temperature) to rise. It's also responsible for hot flashes. Progesterone is essential to ensuring implantation of the fertilized egg and to sustain pregnancy. If the egg is fertilized, it will take about 7-10 days to implant in the uterus. Once implanted, the fertilized egg will begin to release the hormone (Human ). This is the hormone that (pee-on-a-stick home pregnancy tests) are designed to detect. The corpus will continue to release progesterone, until the placenta develops and takes over progesterone production for the duration of the pregnancy.

If the egg is not fertilized, the corpus will begin to , and thus, decrease the amount of progesterone released. The drop in progesterone causes a second rise in estrogen, which then triggers the uterus to shed the , inducing a woman's menses. And then it starts all over again.

Well, my remaining ovary isn't working anymore for some presently unknown reason, so NONE of this is happening in my body right now.
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