The female reproductive system has both external and internal organs. They all work together but each has an individual job. The internal reproductive organs include the vagina, uterus, cervix, fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
The vagina, sometimes called the birth canal, is a long hollow tube. KidsHealth.org adds the vagina is about three to five inches long in an adult female. Its muscular walls expand and contract so the vagina can accommodate something as slim as a tampon or as wide as a baby. The vaginal walls are lined with mucous membranes, which keep it protected and moist. Additionally, About.com says the vagina is a passageway for cervical mucus, menstrual fluid and other secretions out of the body.
The uterus, also called the womb, is a hollow, pear-shaped organ. The Cleveland Clinic says the main body of the uterus is the corpus. KidsHealth.org reports the uterus contains some of the strongest muscles in the female body. These muscles are able to expand and contract to accommodate a growing fetus and then help push the baby out during labor.
Everyday Health says each month, the uterus develops a nutrient-rich lining. The reproductive purpose of this is to provide nourishment for a developing fetus. If an egg isn’t fertilized, it usually leaves the body as menstrual blood.
The lower end of the uterus opens into the cervix. This expands during childbirth. Columbia University says the cervix contains a small opening called the os. Menstrual blood and semen flow through the os during menstruation and sexual intercourse. About.com also says the cervix protects the uterus from infection. For most of the month, the external os is covered with thick, sticky mucus, which is inhospitable to bacteria.
The two small oval-shaped organs that lie to the upper right and left of the uterus are the ovaries. Their job is to produce and store eggs cells and produce hormones, estrogen and progesterone. Everyday Health says the ovaries contain several hundred thousand undeveloped eggs at birth, but the eggs are not called into action until puberty. Roughly once a month, starting at puberty and lasting until menopause, the ovaries release an egg into the fallopian tubes.
The two fallopian tubes are tunnels that allow egg cells to travel from the ovaries to the uterus. Each is attached to a side of the uterus. KidsHealth.org describes them as about four inches long and about as wide as a piece of spaghetti. Each tube’s passageway is no wider than a sewing needle. Fertilization typically occurs in a fallopian tube.
The Female Reproductive System. The Cleveland Clinic. Web 17, Aug 2011.
A Body Basics Article: the Female Reproductive System. Kids Health from Nemours. Wed 17, Aug 2011.
Female Anatomy: The Reproductive Organs. Everyday Health, Inc. Web 17, Aug 2011.
Reproductive Health Module. Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. Web 17, Aug 2011.
The Female Reproductive System: Everything You Need to Know. About.com PCOS. Web 17, Aug 2011.
Reviewed August 17, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg R.N.
Edited by Jody Smith