human female reproductive system
Female Reproductive Organ within Pelvis: Three-dimensional visualization reconstructed from scanned human data. Anterior view of female reproductive organs within pelvic cavity. The primary reproductive organs of the female are the ovaries, the left one shown here, which create and nurture gametes and produce the female sex hormones, estrogens and progesterone. Accessory structures serve the needs of the reproductive cells and the developing fetus. These structures include the fallopian tubes, uterus and vagina and make up the internal genitalia. The uterus is a thick walled organ which serves to receive, retain and nourish a fertilized ovum. Also visible are the ovarian and broad ligaments, they serve to suspend the reproductive system in place.
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.
- 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.
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.
The material on this site is for informational purposes only and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult a licensed medical professional for the diagnosis and treatment of all medical conditions and before starting a new diet or exercise program. If you have a medical emergency, call 911 immediately.