The female reproductive system is mostly internal, or inside the body, and these internal organs are highly susceptible to sexually transmitted infections. However, STIs can affect the external parts as well. Dr. Alvarado, can you tell us about the organs that make up the female reproductive system?
Of course, Dr. Mayzik. The internal organs of the female reproductive system include:
- Two ovaries
- Two fallopian tubes
- The uterus
- The cervix, and
- The vagina
Each of the ovaries is similar in size and shape to a slice of an apple. They produce eggs, called ova, and also make female hormones, known as estrogen and progesterone. These hormones control the development of a woman's body, including her breasts, body shape, and body hair. They also regulate a woman's menstrual cycle and pregnancy.
During a woman's monthly cycle, 12 to 16 days before menstruation, an egg is released from the ovary. A woman can become pregnant during this part of her cycle, which is called ovulation.
The fallopian tubes are slender tubes that carry the egg from a woman's ovary to her uterus. This is where an egg may be fertilized by a man's sperm if sexual intercourse occurs around the time of ovulation.
The egg then moves through the fallopian tube to the uterus, a hollow, pear-shaped organ positioned between the bladder and the rectum. If the egg has been fertilized, it implants in the uterus and continues to develop until birth. If the egg is not fertilized, it will disintegrate and be shed along with the thick, bloody lining of the uterus during menstruation.
The narrow, lower portion of the uterus is the cervix. The cervix produces mucus that provides protection from infection. During ovulation, the mucus assists the movement of sperm from the vagina into the uterus. When a woman is pregnant, the cervix is tightly closed to help keep the baby inside the uterus until childbirth.
The vagina, also known as the birth canal, is the canal that joins the cervix to the outside of the body.
The external parts of the female reproductive system are collectively referred to as the vulva or the genitals.