During intercourse, sperm are released into the vagina near the cervix, swim through the uterus and travel up the fallopian tubes. Sperm are composed of 3 parts: a head, a middle section, and a tail. The tail propels the sperm, which is powered by energy cells stored in the middle section. The head of the sperm contains the man’s genetic material and an enzyme-filled cap needed to help the sperm penetrate through the outer membrane of the egg.
As an egg released by an ovary travels through a fallopian tube, it may encounter hundreds of sperm that have survived to reach this point in their journey. Eventually, one sperm may succeed in breaking through the egg’s outer membrane.
After penetrating the egg’s outer membrane, the sperm releases its nucleus, which unites with the nucleus from the egg. Fertilization or conception occurs when the sperm fuses with the egg to form a fertilized egg (zygote).
Review Date: 9/16/2008
Reviewed By: Dan Sacks MD, FACOG, Obstetrics & Gynecology in Private Practice, West Palm Beach, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
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