The human female reproductive system (as with most reproductive systems) is designed so that a woman can produce eggs, have sexual intercourse, expel the egg if it has not been fertilized, accommodate and nourish the fetus if fertilization has taken place, give birth to the baby when fully developed and feed the baby with milk produced in the breasts.
Unlike men, a woman’s reproductive organs are mostly hidden from view inside her body. They consist of the uterus (the womb), the fallopian tubes and ovaries, the cervix, vagina and the vulva.
The Breasts form part of the woman’s reproductive system as they play an important role in the nourishment of the new born baby. They also give sexual pleasure during intercourse.
The uterus is an amazing one of the female reproduction organs! It houses the growing baby during pregnancy, and will greatly increase in size as the baby develops - up to 20 time its non-pregnant size! The uterus is the most important organ in the female reproduction system.
Every month the uterus builds up the inner lining (endometrium) to prepare itself for holding the egg if if is fertilized. If conception does not happen, it sheds the egg and extra tissue from the lining through the vagina. This reproductive process is called a period or menstruation.
The fallopian tubes:
The eggs are produced in the ovaries and travel down the fallopian tubes towards the uterus during the female reproductive cycle. They are usually around 12 centimeters long. If the egg is fertilized this will happen while it is still in the fallopian tube.
Did you know that the ovaries are some of the first female reproductive system organs to develop in a female baby? The ovaries are where the woman stores the eggs. A female baby starts off with several million egg cells although only around three hundred mature eggs will be produced during an average female reproductive system lifespan.
During puberty (usually taking place in the early teens) sex hormones will start of the female reproductive cycle and stimulate around twenty egg cells to start to develop. Only one egg will reach maturity however, the other eggs will die off. The mature egg will enter the fallopian tube and will either be fertilized or will be expelled from the body during the woman’s menstrual period.
The vagina connects the female genitals to the uterus. It acts as a two-way canal, accommodating the penis during sexual intercourse and is the passage way for the new baby during child birth. It is a muscular tube and like the uterus is able to expand considerably to accommodate the head and body of the baby as it travels down the birth canal.
The cervix joins the vagina to the uterus. During intercourse sperm will travel through the cervix and will continue through the uterus up the fallopian tubes.
Two female reproduction system hormones, estrogen and progesterone, stimulate the production of mucus in the cervix. If there is not much mucus sperm will find it hard to get through into the uterus. When an egg begins its journey down the fallopian tubes, estrogen levels increase and the mucus in the cervix becomes thin and stretchy, providing a much easier route for the sperm.
The vulva is the whole pubic area down to the rectum. There are two flaps of fatty tissue around the vagina entrance and urethra (where urine is expelled). The outer flaps are called the labia majora, and the inner flaps are called the labia minora.
Towards the front of the vulva lies the clitoris. When stimulated this short organ can become erect and give sexual pleasure to the woman.
Go to the following pages for more information on the Human Reproductive System and the female reproductive system: