The female reproductive system consists of the vagina, cervix, uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries and the breasts.
The external parts of the reproductive system are called the genitalia or vulva (specific term for female genitalia) and their role is two-fold: To enable sperm to enter the body and to protect the internal genital organs from infectious organisms.
The Labia majora or big lips enclose and protect the other external reproductive organs. They contain sweat and oil-secreting glands and after puberty, are covered with hair.
The Labia minora or small lips surround the opening to the vagina and the urethra.
The two labia minora meet at the Clitoris, a small, sensitive protrusion at the front of the vulva that is comparable to the penis in males. The clitoris is covered by a fold of skin, called the prepuce, which is similar to the foreskin at the end of the penis. Like the penis, the clitoris is very sensitive to stimulation and can become erect.
Between the labia are openings to the urethra - the canal that carries urine from the bladder to the outside; and the vagina.
The vagina's muscular walls are lined with mucous membranes, which keep it protected and moist.
The vagina connects with the uterus, or womb, at the cervix. The cervix is a ring of muscle located at the lower third portion of the uterus. It forms a barrier between the uterus and the vagina. The cervix has strong, thick walls. The opening of the cervix is very small (no wider than a straw). Until birth, the baby is held in place by the cervix. During birth, the cervix expands and the baby passes through it.
The uterus is a hollow organ that is shaped like an upside-down pear. It has a thick lining and muscular walls and in fact, contains some of the strongest muscles of the female body. These muscles hosts the developing fetus and then help push the baby out during labor. When a woman isn't pregnant, the uterus is only about 3 in (7.5 cm) long and 2 in (5 cm) wide.
At the upper corners of the uterus, a fallopian tube connects the uterus to each of two ovaries. The fallopian tubes, also called oviducts, are the vessels through which the egg cell travels from either ovary to the uterus. The smooth movement of the egg is aided by very tiny hairs in the fallopian tube called cilia. The fallopian tubes are about 4 in (10cm) long and about as wide as a spaghetti. Within each tube is a tiny passageway no wider than a sewing needle. At the other end of each fallopian tube is a fringed area that looks like a funnel. This fringed area wraps around the ovary but doesn't completely attach to it. When an egg pops out of an ovary, it enters the fallopian tube.
The ovaries are two oval-shaped organs that lie to the upper right and left of the uterus. They store and release eggs into a fallopian tube every month after puberty in the process called ovulation. Each ovary measures about 1½ to 2 in (4 to 5 cm) in a grown woman. Women (females) are born with hundreds of undeveloped female egg cells (oocytes) or ova (singular - ovum). Unused eggs dissolve and pass out during menstruation.
During the normal menstrual cycle the following should occur.
During menopause the female reproductive system gradually stops making the female hormones necessary for the reproductive cycle to work. At this point, menstrual cycles can become irregular and eventually stop. One year after menstrual cycles stop, the woman is considered to be menopausal.
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