You are on page 1of 6

Female Reproductive System • The organs of the female reproductive system include the ovaries, the uterine (fallopian

) tube, the uterus, the vagina, and the external organs which are collectively called the vulva or perineum. The mammary glands are also part of the female reproductive system. Female external structures The main external structures of the female reproductive system include: Termed as vulva or pudendum, the female external genitalia are the following:

1. 2.

Mons Veneris. The mons pubis is an elevation pad of adipose tissue covered by coarse pubic hair, which cushions the pubic symphysis, the pubic bone joint. Labia Majora. From the mons pubis, two longitudinal folds of skin, the labia majora, extend down and back. These two folds of adipose tissue are covered by loose connective tissue and epithelium; contains sebaceous and sudoriferous glands and are also covered by pubic hair. It also has a loose connective tissue base.The labia majora serves as protection for the external genitalia and the distal urethra and vagina. Labia Minora. Medial to the labia majora are two folds of skin called the labia minora. The labia minora do not contain pubic hair or fat and have few sudoriferous glands; they do contain numerous sebaceous glands. Before menarche, these folds are fairly small; by childbearing age, they remain firm and full; after menopause, they atrophy and again become much smaller. Normally, the folds of labia minora are pink; the internal surface is covered with mucous membrane, the external surface with skin.


• Other external structures include: the clitoris is a small, cylindrical mass of

erectile tissue and nerves. It is located at the anterior junction of the labia minora. A layer of skin called the prepuce, also known as the foreskin, is formed at appoint where the labia minora unite and cover the body of clitoris. The exposed portion of the clitoris is the glans. The clitoris is also capable of enlargement during sexual stimulation. are the hymen, a tough but elastic semicircle of tissue that covers the opening of the vagina in childhood; vaginal orifice, the opening of the vagina to the exterior; external urethral orifice, the opening of the urethra to the exterior; and on either side of the external urethral orifice, the openings of the ducts of the paraurethral glands. These glands in the wall of the urethra secrete mucus. On either side of the vaginal orifice itself are the greater vestibular glands or skene’s glands, which produce a small quantity of mucus during sexual arousal and intercourse that adds to cervical mucus and provides lubrication. The bartholin’s glands (vulvovaginal glands) are located just lateral to the vaginal opening on both sides. The alkaline pH of their secretion helps to improve sperm survival in the vagina. labia minora and majora. This is the structure that is sometimes cut (episiotomy)during childbirth to enlarge the vaginal opening.

• The region between the labia minora is called the vestibule. In the vestibule

• The fourchette is the ridge of tissue formed by the posterior joining of the two

The mammary glands located in the breasts. the uterus is approx. . They are grayish-white and appear pitted. fluid filled follicle that is preparing to rupture and expel a secondary oocyte. Ovaries. lies close to the ovary but is open to the pelvic cavity. lymphatic vessels and nerves. In a nonpregnant state. and in its widest upper part 2. the uterine tubes extend medially. Deep to the germinal epithelium is the ovarian cortex. the infundibulum. The germinal epithelium is a layer of simple epithelium that covers the surface of the ovary. It ends in a fringe of fingerlike projections called fimbriae. and they are the size and shaped of unshelled almonds or approximately 4 cm long by 2 cm in diameter and approx. 5 cm wide.The uterus serves as part of the pathway for sperm deposited in the vagina to reach the uterine tube. The breasts lie over the pectoralis major and serratus anterior muscles and are attached to them by a layer of connective tissue. Breast. covering the cervix. 5 t0 7 cm long. Uterine tubes. furnish protection to a growing fetus. The follicle enlarges until it is a mature (graafian) follicle. . . the outlet for menstrual flow. 2. a large. 60 g. . attaching to the upper and outer corners of the uterus. 4.5 cm deep. The remnants of an ovulated follicle develop into a corpus luteum which produces progesterone. The open. The ovarian medulla is a region deep to the ovarian cortex that consists of loose connective tissue and contains blood vessels.The mammary glands arise from ectodermic tissue early in utero. • Each ovarian follicle consists of an oocyte and a variable number of surrounding cells that nourish the developing oocyte and begin to secrete estrogens as the follicle grows larger. funnel-shaped end of each tube. expel it from the woman’s body. A recess. surrounds the cervix. relaxin and inhibin until it degenerates and turns into fibrous tissue called a corpus albicans. 1. called the fornix. a region of dense connective tissue that contains ovarian follicles. and at maturity of the fetus. Females have two fallopian tubes that extend laterally from the uterus and transport the secondary oocytes from the ovaries to the uterus. When properly inserted. Vagina. It is a hollow. and the passageway for childbirth.5 cm thick. posterior to the bladder and anterior to the rectum. estrogens. it weighs approx.The ovaries are paired organs that produce secondary oocytes and hormones. inhibin and relaxin. provide a place for implantation and nourishment during fetal growth. estrogen. a contraceptive diaphragm rests on the fornix. Uterus. The vagina is situated between the urinary bladder and the rectum. or with minute indications on the surface. muscular. 3. the function of the uterus is to receive the ovum from the fallopian tube. such as progesterone. From the infundibulum.Female internal structures 1. The ovaries arise from the same embryonic tissue as the testes.The vagina is a tubular canal that extends from the exterior of the body to the uterine cervix. pear-shaped organ located in the lower pelvis. It is the receptacle for the penis during sexual intercourse. . are modified sudoriferous glands that produce milk. With maturity.

Female Reproductive Function and Cycle Sperm production in males begin at Oogenesis and Ovarian Cycle puberty and generally continues throughout life. the special kind of cell division that occurs in the male testes to produce sperm. The ejection of milk is stimulated by oxytocin. the anterior pituitary gland begins to release folliclestimulating hormone (FSH). with contributions from progesterone and estrogens. The situation is quite different in females. The mature follicles that are no ovulated soon become overripe • . which stimulates a small number of primary follicles to grow and mature each month. Sperms are tiny and equipped with tails for locomotion. the oogania no longer exist. also occurs in the female ovaries. the female stem cells. well stocked with nutrient reserves that nourish the developing embryo until it can take up residence in the uterus. The first meiotic division produces two cells that are very dissimilar in size. but the follicle that is at the proper stage of maturity when the LH stimulus occurs will rupture and release its oocyte into the peritoneal cavity. The ovulated secondary oocyte is still surrounded by its follicle-cell capsule. her ability to produce eggs. • Another major difference between males and females concern the size and structure of their sex cells. • In the developing female fetus. nonmotile cell. awaiting the chance to undergo meiosis to produce functional eggs. Follicle development to this stage takes about 14 days. thus. and then their daughter cells. multiply rapidly to increase their number. female gametes. now called the corona radiate (“radiating crown”). They have little nutrient-containing cytoplasm. By birth.• The functions of the mammary glands are the synthesis. The larger cell is a secondary oocyte and the other. But in this case. • As a follicle prodded by FSH grows larger. the egg is a large. it contains a secondary oocyte and protrudes like an angry boil from the external surface of the ovary. and the process is called oogenesis (“the beginning of an egg”). Just how this follicle is selected or selects itself is not understood. are produced. By the time a follicle has ripened to the mature (vesicular follicle) stage. • Meiosis. These cyclic changes that occur monthly in the ovary constitute the ovarian cycle. Milk production is stimulated largely by the hormone prolactin from the anterior pituitary. Generally speaking. it accumulates fluid in the central chamber called the antrum. these functions. and ovulation begins to occur each month. where they become surrounded by a single layer of cells to form the primary follicles. oogania. push into the ovary connective tissue. and ovulation (of a secondary oocyte) occurs at just about that time in response to the burstlike release of a second anterior pituitary hormone. and a female’s lifetime supply of primary oocytes (approximately 2 million of them) is already in place in the ovarian follicles. secretion and ejection of milk. one of the developing follicles outstrips the others each month to become the dominant follicle. are associated with pregnancy and childbirth. or sex cells. very tiny cell is a polar body. called lactation. • At puberty. gradually declines and then finally ends is called menopause.and the primary oocyte it contain replicated its chromosomes and begins meiosis. primary oocytes. which is released from the posterior pituitary in response to the sucking of an infant on the mother’s nipple (suckling). luteinizing hormone (LH). The period in which a woman’s reproductive capability. the nutrients in seminal fluid are vital to their survival. In contrast.

those endometrial cells begin to die. or becoming detached. . regulated by the anterior pituitary gonadotropic hormones.Rising levels of progesterone production by the corpus luteum of the ovary act on the estrogen-primed endometrium and increase its blood supply even more. • Since the cyclic production of estrogens and progesterone by the ovaries is. When deprived of oxygen and nutrients. The detached tissues and blood pass through the vagina as the menstrual flow usually for 3 to 5 days. If fertilization does occur.and deteriorate. on or about day 14.) Days 15-28: Secretory Phase . These nutrients will sustain a developing embryo (if one is present) until it has implanted. which sets the stage for menses to begin again on day 28. its 23 chromosomes are combined with those of the sperm to form the fertilized egg. . Progesterone also causes the endometrial glands to increase in size and to begin screting nutrients into the uterine cavity. the superficial functional layer of the thick endometrial lining of the uterus is sloughing off. By day 5. 2. FSH and LH. Uterine (Menstrual) Cycle • Although the uterus is the receptacle in which the young embryo implants and develops. both female cycles are about 28 days long (a period commonly called a lunar month). The average blood loss during this period is 50 to 150 ml (or about a/4 to a/2 cup). The events of the uterine. the corpus luteum. They deteriorate and die quickly. glands are formed in it. • If the ovulated secondary oocyte is penetrated by the sperm. goes through month after month as it responds to changes in the levels of ovarian hormones in the blood. If fertilization does not occur. or mucosa of the uterus. The three stages of the menstrual phase: 1. The endometrium once again becomes velvety. cycle are the cyclic changes that the endometrium. in response to the sudden surge of LH in the blood. LH also causes the ruptured follicle to change into a very different glandular structure. the embryo produces a hormone very similar to LH. .) 3.Stimulated by rising estrogen levels produced by the growing follicles of the ovaries. and the endometrial blood supply is increased. it undergoes the second meiotic division that produces another polar body and the ovum. However. the basal layer of the endometrium regenerates the functional layer. Lack of ovarian hormones in the blood causes the blood vessels supplying the functional layer of the endometrium to go into spasms and kink. from the uterine wall. which causes the corpus luteum to continue producing its hormones. Although meiosis in females yields only one functional ovum and three tiny polar bodies. (Ovulation occurs in the ovary at the end of this stage. it is important to understand how these “hormonal pieces” fit together.)Days 1-5: Menstrual Phase.)Days 6-14: Proliferative Phase. In addition to triggering ovulation. Generally speaking. Since the polar bodies have essentially no cytoplasm. if the secondary oocyte is not penetrated by the sperm. Once the ovum is formed.During this interval. growing ovarian follicles are beginning to produce more estrogen. which is the first cell of the yet-to0be offspring. in turn. it is receptive to implantation only for a very short period each month. or menstrual. thick and well vascularized. it simply deteriorates without ever completing meiosis to form a functional egg. the corpus luteum begins to degenerate toward the end of this period as LH blood levels decline. with ovulation typically occurring midway in the cycles.

releasing enzymes that break down the “cement” that holds the follicle cells of the corona radiate together around the oocyte. PROCESS OF IMPLANTATION . and if an oocyte is en route into the tube. A sperm that comes along later. Once a path ahs been cleared and a single sperm makes contact with the oocyte’s membrane receptors. Consequently. when it helps maintain the pregnancy and prepare the breasts of milk production. Widening and lightening of the pelvis. Increased deposits of fat beneath the skin in general.” allowing them to locate the oocyte. (However. Once a single sperm has penetrated the oocyte. hundreds of their acrosomes rupture. the corpus luteum produces progesterone (and some estrogen) as long as LH is still present in the blood. Such changes include: • Enlargement of the accessory organs of the female reproductive system (uterine tubes. progesterone does not contribute to the appearance of the secondary sex characteristics. sexual intercourse must occur no more than 24 hours after. is produced by the glandular corpus luteum. the corpus luteum has stopped producing hormones by 10 to 14 days after ovulation. production of ovarian hormones begins. It takes one to two hours for system to the end of the uterine tubes. forming the ovum and a polar body. for fertilization to occur. uterus. or the menstrual cycle. fertilization is a distinct possibility. the sperm must reach the ovulated secondary oocyte. • When the swarming sperm reach the oocyte. the oocyte nucleus completes the second meiotic division. which cause the appearance of the secondary sex characteristics in the young woman. external genitals). at which point the oocyte is approximately one-third of the way down the length of the uterine tube. its head (nucleus) is pulled into the oocyte cytoplasm. The follicle cells of the growing and mature follicles produce estrogens. Development of the breasts. Appearance of axillaries and pubic hair.• • • • • Hormone Production by the Ovaries As the ovaries become active at puberty and start to produce ova. Except for working with estrogen to establish the menstrual cycle. the source of progesterone during pregnancy is the placenta. Accomplishing Fertilization • Before fertilization can occur. or zygote The zygote represents the first cell of the new individual. which looks and acts completely different from the growing and mature follicle. and particularly in the hips and breasts. Onset of menses. vagina. not the ovaries). Generally speaking. After ovulation occurs the ruptured follicle is converted to the corpus luteum. Its other major effects are exerted during pregnancy. Once formed. and sperm generally retain their fertilizing power within the female reproductive tract for 12 to 48 hours after ejaculation. progesterone. • Fertilization occurs at the moment the genetic material of a sperm combines with that of an ovum to form a fertilized egg. The sperm are attracted to the oocyte by chemicals that act as “homing devices. after hundreds of sperm have undergone acrosomal reactions to expose the oocyte membrane. The oocyte is viable for 12 to 24 hours after it is cast out of the ovary. is in the best position to be the fertilizing sperm. The second ovarian hormone.

As pregnancy continues. the uterus grows to occupy most of the pelvic cavity by 16 weeks. The crowded abdominal organs press superiorly against the diaphragm. The outer surface of the blastocyst becomes covered with finger-like projections called chorionic villi. PREGNANCY Effects of Pregnancy on the Mother Pregnancy (the period from conception to the birth of the baby) can be a difficult time for the mother. good maternal nutrition is necessary throughout pregnancy if the developing fetus is to have all the building materials (proteins. but striking changes occur in her physiology as well. the ribs flare. b. but it may also result in waddling gait during pregnancy. and many women develop an accentuated lumbar curvature (lordosis). The morula floats in the uterus for 3 to 4 days. c. As a result. the hollow fluid-filled morula. Villi also manufacture human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) which signal the corpus luteum within the ovaries to continue production of progesterone and estrogen to prevent menstruation. At this time. which intrudes on the thoracic cavity. Implantation normally occurs in the upper. • The increasing bulkiness of the abdomen changes the woman’s center of gravity. The point of implantation becomes the origin for the placenta and umbilical cord. during the last few months of pregnancy. calcium. often accompanied by backaches.a. Placental production of the hormone relaxin causes pelvic ligaments and the pubic symphysis to relax. posterior wall of the uterus. a pregnant woman needs only about 300 additional calories daily to sustain proper fetal growth. widen. Chorionic villi aid in the process of implantation into the endometrium (decidua). the uterus reaches the level of the xiphoid process and occupies the bulk of the abdominal cavity. iron. Not only are there obvious anatomical changes. now called blastocyst burrows into the uterine lining. • Obviously. and become more flexible. and the like) it needs to form its tissues and organs. Actually. gaining in size and weight. . This increased motility eases birth passage. the uterus pushes higher and higher into the abdominal cavity. causing the thorax to widen. As birth nears. Anatomical Changes • Starting as a fist-sized organ.