What is Female Reproductive System?
Reproductive system is also called genital system and is vital for reproduction of a new being. It contains two systems that differentiate sexuality of an individual known as male reproductive system and female reproductive system. Humans reproduce through sexual intercourse where internal fertilization takes place. It is when the egg cell from female and sperm cell from male meets during intercourse.
Female reproductive system functions in the production of egg cell necessary for reproduction and also functions in the production of hormones vital for reproduction cycle. Another important function of the female reproductive system is providing site for fertilization, implantation for growing and developing fetus. The female reproductive anatomy is divided into two structures and these are the internal structure and external structure. The external structure however, has two functions:
Two functions of external structure
- Facilitates the entrance of sperm inside the woman’s body.
- Protects the internal genital organs from invasion of infectious organisms.
The external structure of female reproductive system is known as vulva. It is sometimes mistaken for the known term as vagina. The vulva contains the urethral opening where the urine pass through and thereby making it the important function of the vulva. Aside from the urine passage, the vulva also functions sexually in which when properly stimulated can give sexual pleasure to humans.
Anatomical structure of vulva:
Diagram 1 – Anatomical structure of vulva
- Clitoris – a pea-shape glan containing numerous nerve endings that makes it highly sensitive and it is located in front of the vulva and where the labia minora meets.
- Urethral Orifice – located below the clitoris and just in front of the vagina and where the urine passes.
- Labia Majora – also called “large lips” protects the other external organ. It is large and fleshy analogous to male scrotum and contains sweat and oil-secreting gland. It has a cleft known as pudendal cleft.
- Labia Minora – known as “small lips” is located inside the labia majora surrounding the openings to the vagina and urethra.
- Vagina – a muscular tube allowing menstrual flow and sexual intercourse. It also connects the cervix to the birth canal. The opening of the vagina lies between the urethra and the anus and the important function is the passage of fetus during delivery.
Internal Structure of Female Reproductive System:
Diagram 2 – female internal reproductive structure
- Vagina – an internal tube that serves as a passageway for fetus during delivery and also for sexual intercourse. It also connects the cervix to the birth canal.
- Cervix – located at the lower portion of the uterus that connects with the top end of the vagina and is cylindrical in shape. The cervix stretches during menstrual period allowing the endometrium to be shed. It also dilate up to 10 cm I diameter to allow passage during childbirth when the uterine wall contracts. The cervix convulses while the external os dilates during orgasm.
- Uterus – characterized as hollow, pear-shaped and thick-walled organ that shelter and nourishes a developing fetus from fertilization to birth during pregnancy. This organ is located in the pelvis between the bladder and rectum.
- Fallopian tubes – also called uterine tubes are attached to the upper part of the uterus and with ciliated epithilia. It is a passageway of the ova from the ovaries to the uterus. Fertilization occurs in this tube when sperm meets with egg cell which is released by the ovaries.
- Ovaries – an oval-shaped gland situated at both sides of the uterus. This gland secretes hormones known as estrogen and progesterone and it is also responsible for producing eggs.
Changes occur in a woman’s body during pregnancy and these are due to hormonal changes, result of the growing fetus and the physical adaptation. The reproductive system of a woman is greatly affected by these changes. These happen to accommodate the developing and growing fetus as well as preparing the woman’s body to facilitate childbirth.
Changes in the female reproductive system at pregnancy:
- Uterus – defined for its elasticity, the uterus expands as the pregnancy progresses to accommodate the growing fetus. The uterus also accommodates the placenta, umbilical cord, amniotic fluid and fetal membranes. The size of the uterus increases five times its normal size until full term of pregnancy. Much of the abdominal contents are displaced to the sides at pregnancy to give enough space for the increasing size of the uterus. The maximum increase in size of the uterus reaches its peak on the 38th week of pregnancy and slightly drops when the fetus is at cephalic position in preparation for delivery and dropping is referred to as “lightening” noticeable to primagravida or first time mother.
- Cervix – softening of the cervix is occurring and also referred to as the Goodell’s sign. Mucus plug is formed to protect the fetus and fetal membrane and to seal the uterus. It is the “bloody show” that precedes labor or may occur at the onset of labor.
- Vagina – Chadwick sign occur which is defined as the purple hue and this is due to the increasing hormone that brought about the change in color of the vagina.
- Ovaries – follicle-stimulating hormone ceases activity and prevents phenomenon of ovulation and menstruation at pregnancy.
Diagram of increasing uterus at pregnancy
Diagram 3 – Diagram of increasing uterus in pregnancy
Diagram of cephalic presentation prior to delivery
Diagram 4 – Diagram of cephalic presentation before delivery