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By the end of this section, you will be able to:
  • Describe the structure and function of the organs of the female reproductive system
  • List the steps of oogenesis
  • Describe the hormonal changes that occur during the ovarian and menstrual cycles
  • Trace the path of an oocyte from ovary to fertilization

The female reproductive system functions to produce gametes and reproductive hormones, just like the male reproductive system; however, it also has the additional task of supporting the developing fetus and delivering it to the outside world. Unlike its male counterpart, the female reproductive system is located primarily inside the pelvic cavity ( [link] ). Recall that the ovaries are the female gonads. The gamete they produce is called an oocyte    . We’ll discuss the production of oocytes in detail shortly. First, let’s look at some of the structures of the female reproductive system.

Female reproductive system

This figure shows the structure and the different organs in the female reproductive system. The top panel shows the lateral view and the bottom panel shows the anterior view.
The major organs of the female reproductive system are located inside the pelvic cavity.

External female genitals

The external female reproductive structures are referred to collectively as the vulva    ( [link] ). The mons pubis    is a pad of fat that is located at the anterior, over the pubic bone. After puberty, it becomes covered in pubic hair. The labia majora    (labia = “lips”; majora = “larger”) are folds of hair-covered skin that begin just posterior to the mons pubis. The thinner and more pigmented labia minora    (labia = “lips”; minora = “smaller”) extend medial to the labia majora. Although they naturally vary in shape and size from woman to woman, the labia minora serve to protect the female urethra and the entrance to the female reproductive tract.

The superior, anterior portions of the labia minora come together to encircle the clitoris    (or glans clitoris), an organ that originates from the same cells as the glans penis and has abundant nerves that make it important in sexual sensation and orgasm. The hymen    is a thin membrane that sometimes partially covers the entrance to the vagina. An intact hymen cannot be used as an indication of “virginity”; even at birth, this is only a partial membrane, as menstrual fluid and other secretions must be able to exit the body, regardless of penile–vaginal intercourse. The vaginal opening is located between the opening of the urethra and the anus. It is flanked by outlets to the Bartholin’s glands    (or greater vestibular glands).

The vulva

This figure shows the parts of the vulva. The right panel shows the external anterior view and the left panel shows the internal anteriolateral view. The major parts are labeled.
The external female genitalia are referred to collectively as the vulva.

Vagina

The vagina    , shown at the bottom of [link] and [link] , is a muscular canal (approximately 10 cm long) that serves as the entrance to the reproductive tract. It also serves as the exit from the uterus during menses and childbirth. The outer walls of the anterior and posterior vagina are formed into longitudinal columns, or ridges, and the superior portion of the vagina—called the fornix—meets the protruding uterine cervix. The walls of the vagina are lined with an outer, fibrous adventitia; a middle layer of smooth muscle; and an inner mucous membrane with transverse folds called rugae    . Together, the middle and inner layers allow the expansion of the vagina to accommodate intercourse and childbirth. The thin, perforated hymen can partially surround the opening to the vaginal orifice. The hymen can be ruptured with strenuous physical exercise, penile–vaginal intercourse, and childbirth. The Bartholin’s glands and the lesser vestibular glands (located near the clitoris) secrete mucus, which keeps the vestibular area moist.

Questions & Answers

what is metabolism
fred Reply
Chemical reaction that takes in place in the cell of a living organism that includes anabolism and Catobolism.
Norman
Catabolism*
Norman
metabolic chemical reaction is of two types, anabolism and catabolism. The break down of larger molecules into smaller molecules is called catabolism.
Ahmad
Metabolism is the chemical reaction that includes anabolism and catabolism
Kedha's
Anabolism is the chemical reaction that combines all the smaller quantities to make large
Kedha's
Catabolism is the chemical process that breaks larger quantities into small
Kedha's
what's abdominal police?
Mohamed
hcl
Annette
hydrochloric acid is the stomach police
Annette
its the stomach omentum
Agama
description of the ears
Nana Reply
which component of mucus allows it to maintain local level of hydration
Loriann Reply
can the teeth be classify under bones?
Ojaga Reply
Bony prominents
guka
What is the largest muscle in the lower leg
Gwen Reply
what's a nervous system
Dante Reply
Is a the group of neurons and glial cells that work together to receive, integrate and responds appropriately to stimulus in the periphery, spinal cord and brain.
Hertzo
study about internal structure, outer structure and their functions
Navdeep Reply
circulatory system on blood pressure
Lakhu Reply
What is ELISA
POULAMI Reply
(enzyme linked immunosorbent assay) is a test that uses antibodies and color change to identify a substance.
luke
tr
Mohamed
what's defense mechanism?
Saintina
psychological strategies that are unconsciously used to protect a person from anxiety arising from unacceptable thoughts or feelings.
Henry
difference between apocrine sweat glands and merocrine sweat glands
Binkheir Reply
I believe the apocrine sweat gland uses a sac under the hair follicle and the merocrine sweat gland releases directly on to the surface of the skin
Mark
normal blood volume in our body
pankaj Reply
5Litres
Albert
Normal blood volume in adults is 6 litres
Kedha's
4.7 to 5ltr.. normal for adult
Clangbhelle
what are the advantages of the concave shape of red blood cells?
Amy Reply
This structure is VERY flexible. It can allow these cells to get into the most tiny places in our bodies. a VERY good design! The advantage of red blood cells' biconcave shape is that the surface area is increased to allow more haemoglobin to be stored in the cell.
Saafi
They can stack so that they can move to capillaries
Nejat
what is the difference between phagocytosis and Pinosis
fred
action of gluteus medius and minimus
Green Reply
Lateral rotation of the hip joint
Hertzo
Briefly explain location of ecg on a patient
Prince Reply
it is a machine that gives a graphical representation of heart beat
Nani
Briefly explain location of ecg leads on a patient?
Prince
in ecg we use electrical leads over the chest ,ancle and wrist
Nani
what is the anatomical and function difference between paravertebral and prevertebral ganglia ?
Rada Reply

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Source:  OpenStax, Anatomy & Physiology. OpenStax CNX. Feb 04, 2016 Download for free at http://legacy.cnx.org/content/col11496/1.8
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