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Anatomy of the Female Reproductive System

written by: Diana Cooper•edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski•updated: 4/29/2010

Learn the basics about the functions and anatomy of the female reproductive system. Know where the eggs are produced, where fertilization takes place, where the fetus grows, and more in this article.

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    Female Reproductive System

    Anatomy of the Female Reproductive System The primary sex organs in the female are the ovaries. Ovaries produce the eggs (ova) and secrete sex hormones. These hormones are needed for the development of secondary sexual characteristics and causes cyclic changes in the secondary sex organs that are required for reproductive function.

    Secondary sex organs include the vagina (which receives the penis and ejaculated semen during copulation and which the baby passes through during delivery), fallopian tubes (where the egg passes through from the ovary to the uterus and where fertilization normally occurs), uterus (where implantation and development of the embryo and fetus occur - the uterus also plays an active role in the delivery of the baby), and mammary glands (provides nourishment to the child).

    One interesting fact regarding the anatomy of the female reproductive system is, although all female mammals have mammary glands, only humans have protruding breasts that function as a sexual attractant.

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    Anatomy of the Female Reproductive System

    Ovaries

    The ovaries of sexually mature females are solid, ovoid structures that are about 1.4 inches long, 0.8 inches wide, and 0.4 inches thick. They are positioned in the upper pelvic cavity on both sides of the uterus. The lateral portion of the ovary is in contact with the open ends of the fallopian tube.

    Fallopian Tubes

    The paired fallopian tubes transport the egg from the ovaries to the uterus. Each tube is about 4 inches long and 0.3 inches in diameter. The egg takes 4-5 days to move through the tube. If enough viable sperm are ejaculated into the vagina during intercourse, fertilization will occur within hours. The fertilized egg (now a zygote) moves toward the uterus where implantation occurs.

    Uterus

    The uterus is a hollow, thick-walled, muscular organ that is shaped like an upside-down pear. In its nonpregnant state it is about 2.8 inches long, 2 inches wide (through its broadest region), and 1 inch in diameter. The anatomical regions include the fundus (the uppermost part), the body (the enlarged main portion), and the cervix (the inferior constricted portion opening into the vagina). The outer covering is the perimetrium, the thick layers of muscle is the myometrium (thickest in the fundus and thinnest in the cervix - arranged in longitudinal, circular, and spiral patterns), and the inner mucosal lining of the uterus is the endometrium. During pregnancy, the weight of the uterus increases from about 60 grams to about 1,000 grams and its capacity increases from about 2.5 milliliters to 5,000 milliliters.

    Vagina

    The vagina is about 3.6 inches in length. It receives sperm, serves as the birth canal, and provides the passage of menses. The middle muscularis layer of the vagina consists of longitudinal and circular bands of smooth muscle interlaced with distensible connective tissue. The distension of the layer is especially important during delivery when the baby is coming through.

    Mammary Glands

    The mammary glands are located in the breasts and are associated with the female reproductive system since they secrete milk for the nourishment of the young.

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    Sources Used

    WebMD: Your Guide to the Female Reproductive System - http://www.webmd.com/infertility-and-reproduction/guide/female-reproductive-system-overview

    InnerBody: Female Reproductive System - http://www.innerbody.com/image/repfov.html

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    Photo Credit

    The above anatomy diagram is in the public domain.