For complete graphic, see Feb. 5 or 23 post.
The health of the mother and her prior exposure to sperm have a dramatic effect on conception. To find out why and how, we have to start with this question:
What is conception?
Is it fertilization, a process by which an egg absorbs a sperm, engulfing the male’s half of the genetic code? Perhaps it is the point at which this egg/sperm concoction (the corpus) reaches the uterus and the trophoblast cells begin to invade the endometrium (uterine lining)?
Trophoblast invasion causes spiral arteries in the mother’s circulation to open and form a pool that will nourish the fetus. Depending on the “discussion” between the mother’s immune system and trophoblast, this invasion may go well or poorly. How well it goes will affect the course of the pregnancy.
Or, what about the point around 8 weeks post onset of last menstrual cycle at which the responsibility for nourishment of these cells is transferred from the corpus to the placenta? By this point about 30% of potential pregnancies have spontaneously aborted because of genetic or inflammation problems.
Another candidate is the Quickening, the point the Bible refers to as the start of life. This is the occasion — around 4 months post onset of last menstrual cycle — when the mother first senses movement in her womb. Is this conception? It certainly rises to the test of consciousness of a phenomenon (otherwise known as a concept).
What if the engulfing of the sperm happens in a dish in the laboratory? What if large doses of egg inducing medications are required to prompt eggs to mature and consider engulfing sperm? What if hormones are required to allow the first few cells to gravitate toward and inbed themselves into a uterine surface not really that friendly to their continuation?
You can see that it is not a simple matter to establish a starting point. There are several processes that must go right to form a viable human. All along the way, the mother’s health plays a key role. Interestingly, the extent of exposure to the father’s sperm also plays a role, as do immune factors in the combined mother’s and father’s genes.
Most important for our purposes here is that women who are regular aerobic exercisers prior to pregnancy or who begin in early pregnancy show reduced risk for developments of the placenta that produce a dysfunctional pregnancy.
Upcoming posts will discuss maternal health and sperm exposure in more detail.