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Human reproductive system, organ system by which humans reproduce and bear live
offspring. Provided all organs are present, normally constructed, and functioning properly, the
essential features of human reproduction are (1) liberation of an ovum, or egg, at a specific time
in the reproductive cycle, (2) internal fertilization of the ovum by spermatozoa, or sperm cells,
(3) transport of the fertilized ovum to the uterus, or womb, (4) implantation of the blastocyst, the
early embryo developed from the fertilized ovum, in the wall of the uterus, (5) formation of a
placenta and maintenance of the unborn child during the entire period of gestation, (6) birth of
the child and expulsion of the placenta, and (7) suckling and care of the child, with an eventual
return of the maternal organs to virtually their original state.
For this biological process to be carried out, certain organs and structures are required in
both the male and the female. The source of the ova (the female germ cells) is the female ovary;
that of spermatozoa (the male germ cells) is the testis. In females, the two ovaries are situated in
the pelvic cavity; in males, the two testes are enveloped in a sac of skin, the scrotum, lying below
and outside the abdomen. Besides producing the germ cells, or gametes, the ovaries and testes
are the source of hormones that cause full development of secondary sexual characteristics and
also the proper functioning of the reproductive tracts. These tracts comprise the fallopian tubes,
the uterus, the vagina, and associated structures in females and the penis, the sperm channels
(epididymis, ductus deferens, and ejaculatory ducts), and other related structures and glands in
males. The function of the fallopian tube is to convey an ovum, which is fertilized in the tube, to
the uterus, where gestation (development before birth) takes place. The function of the male
ducts is to convey spermatozoa from the testis, to store them, and, when ejaculation occurs, to
eject them with secretions from the male glands through the penis.
At copulation, or sexual intercourse, the erect penis is inserted into the vagina, and
spermatozoa contained in the seminal fluid (semen) are ejaculated into the female genital tract.
Spermatozoa then pass from the vagina through the uterus to the fallopian tube to fertilize the
ovum in the outer part of the tube. Females exhibit a periodicity in the activity of their ovaries
and uterus, which starts at puberty and ends at the menopause. The periodicity is manifested by
menstruation at intervals of about 28 days; important changes occur in the ovaries and uterus
during each reproductive, or menstrual, cycle. Periodicity, and subsequently menstruation, is
suppressed during pregnancy and lactation.
This articles describes the organs, both male and female, that are involved in human
reproduction. The reproductive process itself is covered in other articles. For a detailed
discussion of the series of changes that occur in a woman’s body as her fetus develops, see
pregnancy. For a description of the stages of labour and delivery, see parturition. For the
development of the unborn child during gestation, see human embryology. For coverage of the
many diseases and disorders that can affect the reproductive organs, see reproductive system

to develop into the fallopian tubes. Hair at the temples recedes. the subsequent fate of which is of great significance in the eventual anatomical differences between men and women. The differences between a male and a female are genetically determined by the chromosomes that each possesses in the nuclei of the cells. There is. the external genitalia enlarge and the uterus commences its periodic activity with menstruation. and vestibule of the vagina). and limbs. During childhood until puberty there is steady growth in all reproductive organs and a gradual development of activity. In females the mesonephric ducts are largely suppressed. In males at puberty the testes enlarge and become active. especially apocrine glands (a type of sweat gland that is found in the armpits and groin and around the anus). called the paramesonephric or müllerian ducts. the external genitalia enlarge. the uterus. In males each mesonephric duct becomes differentiated into four related structures: a duct of the epididymis. however. and other chromosomally induced conditions. and part of the vagina. as seen in the pelvic bones and skull. in the development of an adult male or female. Differentiation also occurs in the primitive external genitalia. persist. and a seminal vesicle. no external indication of the sex of an embryo during the first eight weeks of its life within the uterus. The other two ducts. pseudohermaphroditism. there normally follows a succession of changes that will result. and there is a deposition of body fat in . which in males become the penis and scrotum and in females the vulva (the clitoris. in males they are largely suppressed. Marked changes in height and weight occur as hormonal secretion from the testes increases. begins first in gonads that are to become testes and a week or so later in those destined to be ovaries. The larynx. The next phase. In females at puberty. or voice box. Puberty marks the onset of increased activity in the sex glands and the steady development of secondary sexual characteristics. finally. enlarges. Certain features in the skeleton. an ejaculatory duct. This is a neutral or indifferent stage during which the sex of an embryo can be ascertained only by examination of the chromosomes in its cells.Development of the reproductive organs The sex of a child is determined at the time of fertilization of the ovum by the spermatozoon. a ductus deferens. The breasts develop. with resultant deepening of the voice. At birth the organs appropriate to each sex have developed and are in their adult positions but are not functioning. Once the genetic sex has been determined. labia. Various abnormalities can occur during development of sex organs in embryos. in females. The embryos each have four ducts. represented by three simple protuberances. as well as hair on the chest. one of differentiation. become accentuated. leading to hermaphroditism. Facial hair develops. or wolffian. abdomen. Skin glands become more active. The hair in the armpits and the pubic hair becomes abundant and thicker. Embryos of the two sexes are initially alike in possessing similar duct systems linking the undifferentiated gonads with the exterior and in having similar external genitalia. and the capacity to ejaculate develops. Two ducts closely related to the developing urinary system are called mesonephric. ducts.

Hormones produced by the ovaries prepare the uterus to receive the ovum. and deposition of the spermatozoa (sperm) within the male. and the vas deferens. which holds the developing fetus. The primary direct function of the male reproductive system is to provide the male sperm for fertilization of the ovum. which also includes the labia. broad shoulders. Production takes place in the testes which are housed in the temperature regulating scrotum. and particularly testosterone. and unfertilized ova are shed each cycle through the process of menstruation. The human female reproductive system contains three main parts: the vagina. and the ovaries. One ovum is released and it passes through the fallopian tube into the uterus. The final category are those used for copulation. Each ovary contains hundreds of egg cells or ova (singular ovum). more muscular stature. The vagina meets the outside at the vulva. during intercourse this area is lubricated by mucus secreted by the Bartholin's glands. This hormone is also responsible for the development of physical characteristics in men such as facial hair and a deep voice. The major reproductive organs of the male can be grouped into three categories. The testes release a hormone that controls the development of sperm. The breasts are involved during the parenting stage of reproduction. it attaches to the endometrium and the fetus develops. The second category are the ejaculatory fluid producing glands which include the seminal vesicles. to the uterus. The lining of the uterus. The first category is sperm production and storage. but in most classifications they are not considered to be part of the female reproductive system. Female reproductive system The human female reproductive system is a series of organs primarily located inside of the body and around the pelvic region of a female that contribute towards the reproductive process. . called the endometrium. the uterus. while the uterus is attached to the ovaries via the fallopian tubes. The vagina is attached to the uterus through the cervix. Growth of axillary (armpit) and pubic hair is more abundant. and Cowper's gland. the pituitary gland releases a hormone that stimulates some of the ova to develop and grow. If the ovum is fertilized by sperm. facial and body hair. and the hair becomes thicker. and development of an adam's apple. these include the penis.accordance with the usual contours of the mature female. vas deferens. urethra. Male reproductive system The male reproductive system is a series of organs located outside of the body and around the pelvis region of a male that contribute towards the reproduction process. An important sexual hormone of males is androgen. which produce the female's ova. deepened voice. immature sperm then travel to the epididymis for development and storage. which leads from the vulva. the vaginal opening. Major secondary sexual characteristics includes: larger. clitoris and urethra. prostate. Approximately every 28 days.

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