Have you ever been curious about the process of human reproduction, more specifically, how a woman's organs work together to make a baby? In order to understand these processes, you have to explore in more detail what makes up the female reproductive system. How does it develop and what roles does it play in reproduction?
Understanding the female reproductive system helps us to be more understanding of our female colleagues, especially during times when they go through the various pain and discomforts brought on by the processes taking place inside the female body.
Female reproductive system development
When pregnant with a new child, the first question that comes to the minds of parents is what the sex of the baby will be. In this aspect, the chromosome characteristics simply referred to as X and Y will determine whether the resulting fetus will be a boy or a girl. A chromosome is a part of a baby's cell that carries the genetic information (popularly called the DNA).
By default, the mother only carries the X chromosome in her egg cell. The father, on the other hand, carries both the X and Y chromosomes in his sperm cells. When the cells unite during the fertilization process, the resulting fertilized egg will inherit the X chromosome of the mother. What chromosome the egg inherits from the father will decide the sex of the fetus. If the egg inherits the X chromosome, the fetus will be female. If it inherits the Y chromosome, the fetus will develop as a male.
Female reproductive system parts and functions
The female reproductive system is made up of different organs that can be found both inside and outside the body. The internal parts are as follows:
- Uterus (the womb) - This is the pear-shaped, hollow organ that houses and nourishes the fetus throughout pregnancy. It is a major female reproductive organ.
- Ovaries - These are found on either side of the uterus. It is the ovaries' job to produce egg cells during ovulation.
- Fallopian tubes - These are tubes connecting the ovaries and the uterus. The fallopian tubes are where the egg cells and sperm cells unite. When successful, the fallopian tube guides the resulting union to the uterus.
These are the external parts:
- Labia majora - This is the outermost part of the vagina. It is a wrinkly, fleshy folding that encloses the labia minora and is covered with pubic hair. The latin word "Labia majora" literally translates to "larger lips".
- Labia minora - The "smaller lips" of the vagina. It is the fleshy opening that lies inside the labia majora. It directly surrounds the vaginal opening and the urethra.
- Bartholin's glands - These are glands located on either side of the vagina. Their job is to secrete fluids that lubricate the vaginal area when necessary.
- Clitoris - Either side of the labia minora begins at the clitoris. It is a small protrusion that resembles a typical outie. It is very sensitive to stimulation.
- Breasts - These are located on the upper body or the pectoral area (the chest). They are scientifically referred to as the mammary glands, and their function is to produce milk for the newborn during lactation.
The function of female reproductive system
The female reproductive system serves a very important role in the human reproduction process. While it is the male reproductive system's job to produce, maintain and transport the sperm, it is the womb (the uterus) that incubates the developing embryo that the woman eventually brings into the world during childbirth. That being said, how does a female reproductive system work?
The primary function of the female reproductive system is to produce the cells necessary for reproduction. These cells are called the ova, or more popularly, the egg cells. They are produced by the ovaries in a process called ovulation.
These cells are transported to the fallopian tubes, where they will wait to be fertilized. Fertilization occurs when these egg cells successfully unite with a sperm cell. The union of the two cells will form a zygote, which attaches itself to the uterus and begins the initial stages of pregnancy.
The egg cells transported to fallopian tubes are only stored there for up to 24 hours. If fertilization does not occur, the eggs will die and the uterus will discard them. The dead cells are released through the vagina along with some blood. This process is called the menstruation cycle.
Female reproductive system diagram
Below is an illustration of the female reproductive system and its parts.
Female reproductive system diseases
Women of all ages may encounter different diseases that affect their reproductive system. There are several causes of these diseases. Such include genetics, poor hygienic practices or sexual transmission. The most common female reproductive system diseases are as follows:
- Endometriosis - The endometrium is the lining of the uterus that sheds off every menstrual cycle. When it grows on bordering organs such as the ovaries, it can cause pain and abnormal bleeding.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease - The organs that make up the reproductive system of a woman are subject to being infected by bacteria from external sources. This disease shows no apparent symptoms until the vagina is subjected to closer inspection.
- Gynecologic cancer(s) - Any cancer that affects any organ of the female reproductive system is under this category. Such include cervical cancer, vaginal cancer, etc..
- Prolapsed uterus - Also called uterine prolapse. This a condition in which the uterus descends into the vagina as a result of weak support from the pelvic muscle. The most obvious symptom is the feeling that you're sitting on a ball.
- Vulvovaginitis - Yeast, bacteria, parasites, and sexually transmitted viruses may result in vulvovaginitis. It is characterized by an inflammation of the vulva or vagina.
- HIV/AIDS - HIV is a sexually transmitted virus that breaks down the body's defenses known as the immune system. If left without treatment, it can lead to AIDS.
- HPV - Human Papillomavirus is the most common sexually transmitted infection. It usually goes away on its own and causes no problems. However, if it does not go away, it can cause health problems such as cancer.
Proper care of the female reproductive system
There are several measures a woman can take in order to keep a clean and healthy reproductive system. These include:
- Proper hygiene of the vaginal area - This does not necessarily mean using a feminine wash. For all intents and purposes, using mild soap and water is enough because the vagina naturally cleans itself.
- Visit the OB/GYN - A visit to the gynecologist can be done once a year and/or when you notice a symptom that concerns you.
- Safe sex - Using a condom is always recommended for important reasons such as the prevention of unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
- Appropriate choice of birth control - Hormonal birth controls such as pills can alter the body's natural cycle to prevent pregnancy. However, this benefit comes with risks such as mood swings, decreased sex drive, and weight gain. For this reason, you can explore other options such as IUD, cervical cap, diaphragm, etc.
- Stay hydrated - Vaginal dryness leading to infections and discomfort can root from dehydration of the body. Always pay attention to your fluid intake.
Lastly, keeping well-maintained overall health is essential to having a healthy reproductive system. Always maintain a balanced diet and participate in regular exercise.
"Nature has invented reproduction as a mechanism for life to move forward. As a life force that passes right through us and makes us a link in the evolution of life." ~ Louis Schwartzberg
The female reproductive system, as seen above, is truly a marvel. Ladies, make sure you take care of yours to avoid the diseases mentioned above.