The female reproductive system includes the vagina, cervix, fallopian tubes, ovaries and the uterus. The uterus is also known as the womb. This remarkable space in the female body is where a baby grows during pregnancy.
According to Jennifer Berman, M.D. and Laura Berman, Ph.D, in For Women Only: A Revolutionary Guide to Overcoming Sexual Dysfunction and Reclaiming Your Sex Life, the uterus is a hollow and very muscular organ. It is about the size and shape of an inverted pear and is usually about three inches long and two inches wide. It is located in the pelvic cavity behind the bladder and in front of the bowel.
The Chapel Hill Tubal Reversal Center describes the relationship between the uterus and the other reproductive organs. The uterine fundus is the upper portion of the uterus where pregnancy occurs. The cervix is the lower portion of the uterus that connects with the vagina and serves as a sphincter to keep the uterus closed during pregnancy until delivery of the baby. The fallopian tubes extend from the sides of the uterine fundus toward the ovaries.
Innerbody.com says the uterus usually tilts forward at a 90 degree angle to the vagina, although in about 20 percent of women, it tilts backwards.
Epigee Women’s Health says the uterus is made up of three layers: the peritoneum (outer layer), myometrium (middle layer) and endometrium (inner lining). The endometrium is a soft, spongy tissue that builds up each month in anticipation of receiving and nourishing a fertilized egg toward pregnancy, but which is usually shed with each menstrual cycle.
The uterus has the distinction of having some of the strongest muscles in the female body. KidsHealth.org says these muscles are able to expand and contract to accommodate a growing fetus and then help push the baby out during labor.
In For Women Only, the Bermans write, the walls of the uterus normally touch each other, but are pushed apart by a growing fetus. The uterus has an amazing ability to slowly return to its normal size and shape after a pregnancy. Innerbody.com adds that the womb shrinks back to half its pregnant weight before a baby is a week old. By the time the baby is a month old, the uterus may be as small as when the egg first entered.
The uterus even plays a role in sexual pleasure. The Bermans report in For Women Only, that during orgasm, some women describe rhythmic, involuntary, and pleasurable muscular contractions of the uterus.
A Body Basics Article: Female Reproductive System. Kids Health from Nemours. Web 11, Aug 2011
Female Reproductive System. Inner Body. Your Guide to Human Anatomy Online by HowToMedia, Inc. Web 11, Aug 2011.
Uterus and Menstrual Cycle. Tubal-Reversal by Chapel Hill Tubal Reversal Center. Web 11, Aug 2011
Female Reproductive System. Epigee Women’s Health. Web 11, Aug 2011.
Female Reproductive System. Gynesurgery by Center for Advanced Gynecological Surgery. Birmingham Alabama. Web 11, Aug 2011.
Berman, Jennifer, Laura Berman, and Elisabeth Bumiller. Chapter Three. For women only: a revolutionary guide to overcoming sexual dysfunction and reclaiming your sex life. New York: Henry Holt & Co., 2001. 46-50. Print.
Reviewed August 11, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith