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One of the most amusing books I have read on infertility is : A Few Good Eggs : Two Chicks Dish on Overcoming the Insanity of Infertility by Julie Vargo and Maureen Regan.

The book is targetted towards infertile women living in the US, and is written in the currently fashionable "chick-lit" style. It's amusingly written; and is a breath of fresh air , if you are the sort of person who finds a sense of humour helps you cope better with infertility.

Top-10 lists

The book has lots of Top-10 lists, and here's their list of

Top Ten Things We Bet You Didn't Know About Reproduction

  1. Cervical mucus has a purpose - really.
  2. Men produce sperm constantly.
  3. Conception takes place in the Fallopian tubes.
  4. You may not ovulate the same time every month.
  5. Ovaries don't necessarily take turns ovulating.
  6. An egg has a twenty-four hour life span.
  7. Conception doesn't take place the night you have sex.
  8. Your fallopian tubes might be blocked, and you wouldn't know it.
  9. Your uterus could be scarred, and you wouldn't know it.
  10. Given the right conditions, sperm can live inside you for several days.

Here are my comments on their list:

  1. Cervical mucus has a purpose - really.
    Mucus is like the snot which pours out of your nose when you have a cold - only it comes from another orifice ! It's sticky and wet - and most women don't have a clue what it does. They often confuse mucus with a vaginal discharge, and believe that it occurs because of an infection. It's actually a product of the cervix ( mouth of the uterus); and is produced prior to ovulation. It helps the sperm to swim towards the eggs; and is a great way of helping you track your "fertile time".
  2. Men produce sperm constantly.
    Unlike the eggs in a women, sperm seem to be a renewable resource. Maybe this is why it seems ( to some women) that ( some) men seem to only think of having sex all the time - all the billions of sperm they produce have to find an outlet !
  3. Conception takes place in the Fallopian tubes.
    The mysterious tubes ( found only in women, but named after a man who "discovered" them) are where fertilization occurs. The egg and sperm meet in the fallopian tube - which has evolved to serve just this one specific purpose . It's a magnificent bit of plumbing , which is highly specialised !
  4. You may not ovulate the same time every month.
    While all the books seem to suggest that ovulation occurs on Day 14 of a cycle, this is a gross over-simplification - and many women's bodies don't seem to have read the books ! Remember that this is a biological system, and a little bit of variation is par for the course. This variation occurs in all women - most of whom never pay any attention to. Infertile women, on the other hand, obsess over tracking their ovulation down to the precise minute !
  5. Ovaries don't necessarily take turns ovulating.
    While this is a common myth, it's not true that the ovaries alternate each month to produce eggs. The hormones which trigger ovulation are produced in the pituitary and they travel through the bloodstream to reach the ovaries. They could act on either ovary in any month - Nature is not symmetrical.
  6. An egg has a twenty-four hour life span.
    After ovulation, the mature egg remains alive in the fallopian tube only for about 24 hours. If it's not fertilised by sperm during this time, it dies and gets rebasorbed by the body. Since pregnancy does not occur, the corpus luteum in the ovary stops producing progesterone in another 14 days, and the menstrual period starts.
  7. Conception doesn't take place the night you have sex.
    Many people imagine that the sperm which pour out during ejaculation have to zoom in on the egg instantly to hit the jackpot. ( This is especially true which you watch all the National Geographic films on How Life Begins). Actually, the sperm remain alive in the female body ( in the fertile cervical mucus) for over 3-5 days .
  8. They are gradually released from this reservoir, when they swim upwards towards the fallopian tubes. If ovulation occurs during this time, conception can still occur - which means you could have had sex on the 20th; and even though you ovulate only on the 24th, you could still get pregnant .
  9. Your fallopian tubes might be blocked, and you wouldn't know it.
    Yes, this can be disconcerting, but there's no way you know your internal plumbing is fine, until the doctor tests it. This is why the diagnosis of blocked tubes can be such a rude shock . In fact, even a routine gynecologic examination will not tell the doctor if your tubes are open or closed. The tests to check for whether or not your tubes are open can be painful and expensive ; and these include a HSG ( hysterosalpingogram, X-ray of the uterus and tubes); and a laparoscopy.
  10. Your uterus could be scarred, and you wouldn't know it.
    While it's rare to have scars inside the uterus, they do occur, and these can reduce your fertility. This condition is called Ashermann's syndrome ( intrauterine adhesions) and is seen in women who develop an infection after an abortion.
  11. Given the right conditions, sperm can live inside you for several days.
    Sperm can remain alive in the sticky fertile cervical mucus, which acts as a storehouse for them. This is why, even though the fertile life of the egg is only 24 hours, you don't need to have sex every 24 hours in order to make a baby - the sperm deposited during one act of intercourse will do their job over 3-5 days.

 

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