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ANATOMY AND PHYSIOLOGY

OVERVIEW OF FEMALE REPRODUCTIVE


FUNCTIONS AND ORGANS

The females role in reproduction is more complicated than the males. The essential
female reproductive functions include the following:
1. Production of ova (oogenesis)
2. Reception of sperm
3. Transport of the sperm and ovum to a common site for union (fertilization, or
conception)
4. Maintenance of the developing fetus until it can survive in the outside world
(gestation, or pregnancy)
5. Giving birth to the baby (parturition)
6. Nourishing the infant after birth by milking production (lactation)

The product of fertilization is known as an embryo during the first


two months of intrauterine development when tissue differentiation is taking
place. Beyond this time, the developing living being is recognizable as human
and is known as a fetus during the remainder of gestation. Although no further
tissue differentiation takes place during fetal life, it is a time of tremendous tissue
growth and maturation.
The ovaries and female reproductive tract lie within the pelvic
cavity. The female reproductive tract consists of the following components.
Two oviducts (uterine, or fallopian tubes), which are in close association with
the two ovaries, pick up ova on ovulation (ovum release from an ovary) and
serve as the site for fertilization. The thick-walled, hollow uterus is primarily
responsible for maintaining the fetus during its development and expelling it at
the end of pregnancy. The vagina is a muscular, expandable tube that connects
the uterus to the external environment. The lowest portion of the uterus, the
cervix, projects into the vagina and contains a single, small opening, the cervical
canal. Sperm are deposited in the vagina by the penis during sexual intercourse.
The cervical canal serves as pathway for sperm through the uterus to the site of
fertilization in the oviduct and, when greatly dilated during parturition, serves as
the passageway for delivery of the baby from the uterus.
The vaginal opening is located in the perineal region between the
urethral opening anteriorly and the anal opening posteriorly. It is partially covered
by the thin mucous membrane, the hymen, which typically is physically disrupted
by the first sexual intercourse. The vaginal and urethral openings are surrounded
laterally by two pairs of skin folds, the labia majora and labia minora. The
smaller labia minora are located medially to the more prominent labia majora.
The clitoris, a small erotic structure composed of tissue similar to that of the
penis, lies in the anterior end of the folds of the labia minora. The female external
genitalia are collectively referred to as the vulva. (Sherwood, 2007)

Reference: Sherwood, L. Human Physiology From Cells to Systems Sixth


Edition. 2007. Pp 732-733