Hormonal Harmony

Nature has designed your reproductive system to work in harmony, each hormone dependent on the other and all working together as a whole system. Any imbalance in any part of this delicate process will affect the production of hormones and with it the chances of conceiving or staying pregnant once fertilisation has occurred. It does not take much to upset the balance; but simple changes in diet and lifestyle can restore it. By getting yourself into optimum health you increase the chances of conceiving because your whole reproductive system will operate more efficiently.

Let’s first look at the hormones step by step, over one cycle, to see how they work:

1.     At the beginning of the menstrual cycle (first day of the period), FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) is released from the pituitary gland.

2.     The FSH stimulates a group of follicles to grow on the surface of the ovary.

3.     Over the next two weeks (the follicular phase of the cycle), the eggs grow and mature and oestrogen produced by the ovary keeps increasing.

4.     As the oestrogen levels increase, the pituitary gland decreases its production of FSH, and LH (luteinising hormone) production is then triggered. Fertile alkaline mucus is produced in the cervix ready to keep the sperm alive and to speed its transport.

5.     As the LH surges, the mature egg (usually only one) is released from the follicle (ovulation) and enters the fallopian tube.

6.     The empty follicle becomes the corpus luteum which produces progesterone. This is the second half of the cycle (the luteal phase).

7.     The fertilised egg stays in the fallopian tube for seven days. On the seventh day after fertilisation (i.e. approximately day 21 of the cycle), the egg (which is now a developing embryo) develops chorionic villi which are special protrusions on its surface to enable it to implant in the womb lining.

8.      The chorionic villi produce a hormone called human chorionic gonadotrophin (hCG) which means that the corpus luteum continues to increase in size and produce more progesterone, thus maintaining the pregnancy. (hCG is the hormone that is picked up by a pregnancy testing kit.)

The timing of all this is crucial. It is vital that the journey through the fallopian tube takes around seven days. If it is shorter then the fertilised egg could arrive in the womb before it is able to embed itself in the lining and die. If the journey takes much longer than seven days then the fertilised egg could embed itself in the fallopian tube instead, causing an ectopic or tubal pregnancy which can be life-threatening for the woman.


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