human female reproductive system


Image Caption : Female Reproductive Organ: Lateral view of cross-sectioned uterus as well as fallopian tubes and ovaries. Every month, an egg is released and drawn into a fallopian tube from one of the two ovaries. If fertilization occurs, the egg moves down the fallopian tube and implants itself in the wall of the uterus, a pear-shaped, hollow, muscular organ that will grow and expand to support a developing baby. If the egg is not fertilized, the egg and uterine lining are shed during menstruation, and will pass out of the uterus through the cervix to the muscular vagina, and out of the body.

FEMALE REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM

Illustration of the organs of the female reproductive system

The organs of the female reproductive system produce and sustain the female sex cells (egg cells or ova), transport these cells to a site where they may be fertilized by sperm, provide a favorable environment for the developing fetus, move the fetus to the outside at the end of the development period, and produce the female sex hormones. The female reproductive system includes the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, uterus, vagina, accessory glands, and external genital organs.

  • Ovaries
  • Genital Tract
  • External Genitalia
  • Female Sexual Response and Hormonal Control
  • Mammary Glands

INTRODUCTION TO THE REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM

The major function of the reproductive system is to ensure survival of the species. Other systems in the body, such as the endocrine and urinary systems, work continuously to maintain homeostasis for survival of the individual. An individual may live a long, healthy, and happy life without producing offspring, but if the species is to continue, at least some individuals must produce offspring.

Within the context of producing offspring, the reproductive system has four functions:

  • To produce egg and sperm cells
  • To transport and sustain these cells
  • To nurture the developing offspring
  • To produce hormones

These functions are divided between the primary and secondary, or accessory, reproductive organs. The primary reproductive organs, or gonads, consist of the ovaries and testes. These organs are responsible for producing the egg and sperm cells gametes), and hormones. These hormones function in the maturation of the reproductive system, the development of sexual characteristics, and regulation of the normal physiology of the reproductive system. All other organs, ducts, and glands in the reproductive system are considered secondary, or accessory, reproductive organs. These structures transport and sustain the gametes and nurture the developing offspring.

National Cancer Institute / NIH

The female reproductive system (or female genital system) contains two main parts: the uterus, which hosts the developing fetus, produces vaginal and uterine secretions, and can pass sperm through to the Fallopian tubes; and the ovaries, which produce the female's egg cells. These parts are internal; the vagina meets the external organs at the vulva, which includes the labia, clitoris and urinary meatus. The vagina is attached to the uterus through the cervix, while the uterus is attached to the ovaries via the Fallopian tubes. At certain intervals, the ovaries release an ovum, which passes through the Fallopian tube into the uterus. If, in this transit, it meets with sperm, a single sperm can enter and merge with the egg, fertilizing it. Corresponding equivalent among males is the male reproductive system.

During the reproductive process, the egg is not a passive recipient, but rather an active participant in the fertilization process. It releases certain molecules that are essential to guiding the sperm which allow the surface of the egg to attach to the sperm's surface. The egg can then absorb the sperm and fertilization begins. The fertilization usually occurs in the oviducts, but can happen in the uterus itself. A zygote will then divide over enough generations of cells to form a blastocyst, which implants itself in the wall of the uterus, where it begins the processes of embryogenesis and morphogenesis. When developed enough to survive outside the womb, the cervix dilates and contractions of the uterus propel the fetus through the birth canal, which is the vagina.

The ova are larger than sperm and have formed by the time a female is born. Approximately every month, a process of oogenesis matures one ovum to be sent down the Fallopian tube attached to its ovary in anticipation of fertilization. If not fertilized, this egg is flushed out of the system through menstruation.



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