The female reproductive system consists of ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vagina, and accessory organs.
The female gonads are called ovaries which produce öocytes and hormones. Two almond-shaped ovaries are located on either side of the uterus in the pelvic cavity and anchored in place by several ligaments, including the ovarian ligament and the broad ligaments. The ovaries are near to, but not attached to, the fallopian tubes.
Within the ovaries are tiny sac-like structures called ovarian follicles. A female is born with about two million follicles, a number that steadily declines with age. By the age of puberty, there are about 400,000 left and, of these, only about 400 follicles will ever mature since only one egg per month is ever released.
Each ovarian follicle consists of one immature egg called an öocyte. Once a month, the ovarian follicle bursts (ovulation). The egg travels from the surface of the ovary to the peritoneal cavity to the fallopian tubes to the uterus. If the egg is fertilized, it is implanted into the lining of the uterus, developing into a fetus. If the egg is not fertilized, it dies and is eliminated in the menstrual blood.
The fallopian tubes (uterine tubes or oviducts) deliver öocyte or embryo to the uterus, the normal site of fertilization. Each of the two tubes is about 10 cm long (4 inches) and extends from either side of the uterus to the ovaries. The funnel-shaped end of each tube nearest the ovary is called the infundibulum, which has finger-like projections called fimbriae. The fimbriae hang over the ovary where their swishing motion sweeps the egg from the surface of the ovary into the fallopian tubes where parastalsis moves it along toward the uterus.
The uterus is shaped like an inverted pear. It is the site of embryonic development and diffusion between maternal and embryonic bloodstreams.
- Parts of the uterus
- The fundus is the upper dome-shaped region above the entrance of the fallopian tubes.
- The body is the central region.
- The cervix is the lower narrow region that opens into the vagina.
- Layers of the uterus
- The outer serosal layer is called the epimetrium or perimetrium.
- The middle layer is comprised of smooth muscle and called the myometrium.
- The inner layer is called the endometriumwhich consists of two layers:
- basilar (thin and vascular lying next to the myometrium)
- functional (responds to the ovarian hormones and thickens in preparation for a fertilized egg. This is also the layer than sloughs off during menstruation)
The vagina is a 20 cm (4 inch) muscular tube that extends from the cervix to the vaginal opening. It is the site for sperm deposition, birthing, and for the passage of fluids during menstruation.
- Mammary glands produce milk that nourishes the newborn infant.
- External genitalia
- clitoris – erectile organ that produces pleasurable sensations during the sex act
- labia – contains glands that lubricate entrance to the vagina