In mammals, pregnancy is the period of reproduction during which a female carries one or more live offspring from implantation in the uterus through gestation. It begins when a fertilized zygote implants in the female's uterus; and ends once it leaves the uterus.
Fertilization and implantation
A male and female copulate, the male inseminating the female. The spermatozoon fertilizes an ovum or various ova in the uterus or fallopian tubes, and this results in one or multiple zygotes. Sometimes, a zygote can be created by humans outside of the animal's body in the artificial process of in-vitro fertilization. After fertilization, the newly formed zygote then begins to divide through mitosis, forming an embryo, which implants in the female's endometrium. At this time, the embryo usually consists of 50 cells.
A blastocoele is a small cavity on the center of the embryo, and the developing embryonary cells will grow around it. Then, a flat layer cell forms on the exterior of this cavity, and the zona pellucida, the blastocyst's barrier, remains the same size as before. Cells grow increasingly smaller to fit in. This new structure with a cavity in the center and the developing cells around it is known as a blastocyst.
The presence of the blastocyst means that two types of cells are forming, an inner-cell mass growing on the interior of the blastocele and cells growing on the exterior of it. In 24 to 48 hours, the zona pellucida breaches. The cells on the exterior of the blastocyst begin excreting an enzyme which erodes epithelial uterine lining and creates a site for implantation.
Placental circulation system
The cells surrounding the blastocyst now destroy cells in the uterine lining, forming small pools of blood, which in turn stimulate the production of capillaries. This is the first stage in the growth of the placenta. The inner cell mass of the blastocyst divides rapidly, forming two layers. The top layer becomes the embryo, and cells from there occupy the amniotic cavity. At the same time, the bottom layer forms a small sac (if the cells begin developing in an abnormal position, an ectopic gestation may also occur at this point).
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