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Following the ejaculation a large number of sperm cells find themselves in the rear part of the vagina, near the uterine cervix (portio vaginalis uteri). The path that the sperm cells must travel from the portio to their meeting with the oocyte in the ampullary part of the fallopian tube is 13-15 cm long. Along this stretch, sperm cells go through a further maturation process, the so-called capacitation.

The mechanisms that guide the sperm cells to the oocyte have not been researched in all their facets.
In order, though, that a sufficient number of sperm cells appear in the ampulla at the right time, a large number of sperm cells must be present in the ejaculate.

Fig. 25 - Female genital tract - path the sperm cells travel

  1. Rear part of the vaginal cavity
  2. Portio / cervix
  3. Cervix canal
  4. Isthmus
  5. Ampullary part of the fallopian tube (ampulla)
  6. Ovary with attached Fimbriae
  7. Endometrium
  8. Myometrium
  9. Cavum uteri
  10. Meeting place of the sperm cells with the oocyte

Fig. 25

The path the sperm cells travel is marked in yellow. The triangles indicate those places along the path where it has been shown that the sperm cells can wait for longer periods of time. They are the crypts in the cervix, the region of the tube isthmus and the ampullary part of the fallopian tube.

Of the roughly 200 million ejaculated sperm cells only a few hundred are able to traverse the long way through the cervix, the uterus, and past the fallopian tube isthmus to the tube's ampullary region to there meet oocyte.
Along the way whole groups of sperm cells can halt at certain places and enter a phase of reduced activity. That is why a portion of the sperm cells can retain their fertilizing capability for up to 4 days.