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How Human Reproduction Works

By: Craig Freudenrich, Ph.D. & Molly Edmonds  | 

Contraception and STDs

While this article detailed the steps of human reproduction, there are ways to stop such a thing from happening. There are several methods of contraception:

  • Abstinence involves not engaging in sexual activity.
  • Birth control pills prevent ovulation.
  • Condoms, intrauterine devices, cervical caps and diaphragms place a barrier between sperm and egg.
  • Spermicides kill sperm.
  • Surgical procedures such as tubal ligations for women or vasectomies for men will cease ovulation and sperm production.
  • Calendar-based methods involve determining periods of maximum fertility and avoiding sexual contact during those times.

These methods have varying degrees of effectiveness, and not all of them may be suited for certain people. Talk with a medical professional about the method that's right for you and your situation.

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And even if you're not planning on reproducing right this minute, you may want to someday. That's why it's important for men and women to keep their reproductive health in tip-top shape. Sexually transmitted diseases and infections can cause fertility trouble down the road. Common sexual infections include gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, genital herpes, HIV/AIDS and trichomoniasis. To prevent sexual infections, both men and women should be regularly tested and engage in safe sexual activity.

Other issues can affect fertility as well. For women, age is a factor, as are hormonal imbalances, stress, poor diet, autoimmune disorders and tobacco and alcohol use. If a woman is either underweight or overweight, she may have trouble conceiving. For men, poor diet, obesity, stress, tobacco, alcohol, drugs, certain medications and very hot water can all affect sperm quality.

For more information on human reproduction and related topics, follow the links below.

Human Reproduction FAQ

What are the main parts of the female reproductive system?
A female's reproductive organs include the vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes, cervix, ovaries, and the greater vestibular gland (Bartholin's gland) and the lesser vestibular gland.
What is the importance of human reproduction?
Human reproduction is essential for the continuance of the species. Without it, humans would die out.
Can humans reproduce asexually?
Humans cannot reproduce without sperm (from a male) and eggs (from a female).
What happens during human reproduction?
When a sperm cell from a male reaches the female's fallopian tube (released during ovulation), it fertilizes the egg there, which becomes a zygote. Approximately four days after this, the zygote grows slightly and becomes a blastocyst. When the blastocyst reaches the uterine lining, it floats for about two days and then implants itself in the uterine wall around six days after fertilization. This signals the beginning of pregnancy.
What are the main parts of the male reproductive system?
A male has three sex organs: the testes (testicles), penis, and the bulbourethral or Cowper's glands. The testes make sperm and produce testosterone while the penis, in an erect state, is placed inside a woman's vagina during intercourse and releases semen (sperm and fluids). The Cowper's glands secretes a tiny amount of fluid that neutralizes any trace of urine that may be leftover in the urethra during sexual excitation, and just prior to the ejection of sperm.

Originally Published: Apr 16, 2001

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