13.7 Female reproductive anatomy

Some of the organs involved in female reproduction are diagrammed in Figure 6.

Illustration of female reproductive anatomy
Figure 6. Female reproductive anatomy. Image by BruceBlaus. Blausen.com staff (2014). “Medical gallery of Blausen Medical 2014”. WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.010. ISSN 2002-4436. – Own work, CC BY 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=29600451

Female reproductive anatomy includes external structures (the clitoris and vulva), structures involved in the production of eggs and in fetal development (ovaries corpus luteum, and uterus), and structures involved in the transport of sperm, eggs, and babies (vagina, cervix and oviduct).

Egg production and fetal development

  • Ovary: females have two ovaries that are the site of egg production, and, if an egg is fertilized, the site of the corpus luteum. The ovary produces hormones estrogen and progesterone and testosterone.
  • Corpus luteum: the site of egg maturation within the ovary. After ovulation (release of the egg) the corpus luteum produces progesterone to maintain a possible pregnancy.
  • Uterus: this muscle-lined, triangular organ is where a fertilized egg implants and develops. This organ develops a thick blood lining and sheds this lining on a monthly cycle.

Transport of eggs, sperm, and babies

  • Vagina: a highly expandable pouch structure that serves as the opening of the female reproductive tract to outside the body. The vagina is the point of sperm entry, and the point of exit for unfertilized eggs, menstrual discharge and for babies.
  • Cervix: the opening between the vagina and the uterus. The size of this opening varies from tightly closed – to open for the passage of sperm, to open enough for a baby to pass through.
  • Oviducts (sometimes called fallopian tubes): these ducts transport mature eggs from the ovary toward the uterus. If a sperm and egg are in the oviduct at the same time, the egg can be fertilized by a sperm.

Exterior structures

  • Vulva: a general term for the exterior parts surrounding the vagina, including the labia majora and labia minora, which are the folds of skin on either side of the clitoris, urethra, and vagina.
  • Clitoris: the sensitive nerve-rich organ that is analogous to the head of the penis. The part of the clitoris that is visible outside the body is dorsal to (closer to the belly) the urethra and the vagina). The interior part of the clitoris extends internally along either side of the vagina.

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The Evolution and Biology of Sex by Sehoya Cotner and Deena Wassenberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.