Even though reproduction has many phases and steps, we’re going to break it down into basic steps so you can fit this quickie into your day.
The first stop in our lesson: the ovaries. Your two ovaries contain all the eggs you will ever make. The ovaries produce hormones and take turns releasing eggs once a month. The hormonal process begins with glands inside the brain, but we’re keeping it short and sweet for now. Our All About Ovulation Graphic gives the ovaries the credit they deserve.
Once you reach puberty, these eggs mature and pop outta you once a month, in the middle of your cycle. This is when you can get pregnant!
Now that ovulation has occurred, the egg (aka ovum) travels from the fallopian tubes to the uterus to get ready for fertilization. It lives only 12-24 hours, but in that short time it makes itself at home. The uterine lining grows thicker in preparation for this, making the space super cozy for the ovum.
Let's have some fun with vaginas! Your vagina is a muscular tube that connects the uterus to the vaginal opening and the vulva. When happy hormones are released in the brain, the vagina gets excited, it fills with blood, the muscles relax and glands moisten the vaginal opening. These feel-good hormones are sparked with feelings of emotional or sexual attraction, or with a pleasant or exciting sense of touch. Show your vadge some love with a Sparkly Vagina + Vulva Lapel Pin!
Now onto the penis' role in all of this.
What exactly does the penis do? Human penises deliver pee and semen to the outside world and various other locations. Let’s just focus on semen for now.
When the penis gets excited, it fills with blood and becomes harder and larger. If the penis asks very nicely, and the vagina agrees, the penis will get invited to go inside the vagina.
During this process, it works together with the testicles and prostate to get those little swimmers all the way to the ovum. If you don't want a baby, this is the part where you need birth control. Explore the many ways to stop conception with our cute birth control T-shirt.
At I Heart Guts, this organ also makes the perfect Penis Neck Pillow.
So how are the testicles involved? They produce sperm and sex hormones. One hormone, testosterone, helps sperm find and fertilize eggs; sperm is the swimming cell responsible for the biologically male side of reproduction. Want a fun way to break the ice when discussing male anatomy? Gift someone this Sperm Factory Poster first!
Now men, you might want to hold onto your Prostate Plush right about now - this could get uncomfortable. We’re just kidding, no probing today!
Besides being responsible for awkward doctor exams, the prostate makes fluid that feeds and protects sperm! Most of what goes into semen come from the seminal vesicle glands that sit atop the prostate. This walnut-sized exocrine gland sits just below the bladder. It’s a real right-hand gland!
The ovum and the sperm are the real star-crossed lovers of this whole process. Some may try to keep them apart, but when sperm finally finds its special ovum, they’re inseparable. Match your sweet little ovum pin with our Sparkly Sperm Enamel Lapel Pin for the perfect pair.
Sperm is the other little cell responsible for half of a human. Millions of sperm are made daily in the testicles. They swim to the prostate, which adds fluids to create semen.
The cervix has two main roles during the reproduction process, letting sperm in and the baby out.
During ovulation, the cervix opens slightly, allowing sperm - if any's around - through to the uterus.
This tiny but mighty orifice has health screenings of its very own, known as the pap smear to check for cervical cancer. Get your cervix scraped annually, and don't forget to take a huggable Cervix Plushie with you. If you want to learn more about paps, read our Don’t Fear the Smear blog.
Now that the cervix has allowed the sperm to pass through to the uterus, it searches for the ovum. If they manage to find each other, the uterus will be their home for the next 9 months. Growing a whole human being is tough work. It can be a bit painful and emotional sometimes, so hold your Uterus Plush extra tight or give it a few punches to get all those feelings out!
Fertilization to Baby
When the sperm enters the uterus and meets up with the ovum, it begins the process of fertilization. Although millions of sperm enter the vagina and pass through the cervix to the uterus, only one can fertilize an egg.
The lucky sperm fuses to the egg, and from there, they kick off the 9-month baby-making process. These two reproductive cells join forces to create a whole human being! Pretty crazy, huh?
Once the egg and sperm join forces, resulting in a fertilized egg, they are officially called a zygote. The zygote keeps progesterone high and continues to grow.
As the zygote grows, it becomes a cluster of cells called a blastocyst. This happens about 5 to 6 days after the sperm fertilizes the egg.
Implantation, when the blastocyst becomes an embryo and attaches itself to the uterine wall, occurs about 8 to 9 days after fertilization. This means that just over a week after the sperm and egg meet up, they’ve settled down in their metaphorical home (for the next 9 months, anyway). Talk about moving fast in a relationship!
The embryo we just discussed is now attached to the uterine wall. What next? Now a human is officially considered pregnant, and the embryo receives the oxygen and nutrients that it needs to grow.
As the embryo continues to grow and develop, it enters the fetus stage. The fetal stage occurs 8 or 9 weeks after fertilization and continues until birth.
So the sperm and egg rendezvous, go through all the trials and tribulations of fusing, growing, implanting, and growing some more over 9 long months. Now comes birth.
As we mentioned, the cervix dilates – or widens – to allow the baby out of the uterus and into the world! Some call it amazing, others describe it as the worst pain they’ve ever felt (and also amazing). Either way, at the end of it all, you have a darn human being that you made from scratch.