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Female Reproductive System: An Overview


The female reproductive system matures in girls during puberty.  It serves several functions, including hormone production, sexual intercourse, pregnancy, childbirth, menstruation, and menopause.  The female reproductive system consists of internal organs and external genitalia.


The internal female reproductive system includes the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, and vagina.  The ovaries are two small organs that produce eggs (ova) and hormones.  When a baby girl is born, her ovaries contain all of her eggs.  At puberty, hormones signal a girl’s sexual reproductive system to develop, after which time an ovary typically releases one mature egg each month.  Two fallopian tubes extend from near the ovaries to the uterus.  The fallopian tubes transport the mature eggs to the uterus (womb).


The uterus is a pear-shaped organ where a baby grows in during pregnancy.  The lining of the uterus undergoes cyclic changes to facilitate and potentially maintain pregnancy.  If a pregnancy does not occur, the uterine lining is shed each month during menstruation.


The cervix is an opening that joins the uterus to the vagina.  The vagina is a muscular passageway that extends from the cervix to the outside of the body.  The vagina has several functions.  Menstrual blood leaves the uterus and travels through the vagina during a female’s period.  A baby moves from the uterus and through the vagina during childbirth.  The male’s penis is inserted into the vagina during sexual intercourse, at which time sperm may travel from the vagina, through the cervix and enter the uterus and fallopian tubes to fertilize an egg.


The external female genitalia are referred to as the vulva or pudendum.  The mons pubis and outer labia major are covered with hair in the mature female.  The labia major and labia minor are two pairs of skin flaps that surround the vaginal and urethra openings.  The urethra opening is located in front of the vaginal opening in the vestibule.  The urethra carries urine from the bladder to outside of the body.  The clitoris is located where the front folds of the labia join.  The clitoris is a small sensory organ that responds to sexual stimulation.