Female Reproductive System

The female reproductive system performs different functions such as the production of egg cells necessary for reproduction. These cells are called ova or oocytes. Thereafter, the reproductive system transports the oocytes to the site of fertilization. The conception happens in the fallopian tubes by fertilization of eggs by sperm. After that, the fertilized egg is implanted into the uterus walls and it is considered the first stage of a pregnancy. However, if fertilization or implantation does not occur, the menstrual cycle begins. Women’s reproductive system also produces female hormones (such as Estrogen) that help to maintain the reproductive cycle.


The external female reproductive structures are twofold (to enable sperm to enter the body and protection from infections). Check below the main female reproductive system’s external structures:

  • Labia Majora – This protects and closes other external reproductive organs. Labia majora is known as “large lips” and they are compared to the scrotum in males. It also contains sweat and oil-secreting glands. “Large lips” are covered with hair after puberty.
  • Labia Minora – Also known as “small lips”. They are commonly very small up to 2 inches wide. It is located inside the labia majora and surrounds the urethra and vagina.
  • Bartholin’s Glands – Besides the vaginal opening are located these glands. They are producing fluid secretion.
  • Clitoris – This part of the reproductive system is compared to the male’s penis and it is covered with thin skin like to the end of the penis. Moreover, the clitoris is very sensitive and can become erect with stimulation.

Check below also female internal reproductive organs:

  • Vagina – It is a canal that connects the cervix to the outside of the body. Furthermore, the vagina is also known as the birth canal.
  • Uterus (womb) – This organ is the home of the developing fetus. It is divided into parts cervix (the lower part) and corpus (the main uterus body).
  • Ovaries – These are specific oval-shaped organs that produce eggs and hormones. Ovaries are located on either side of the womb.
  • Fallopian Tubes – These tubes connect the upper part of the uterus with the ovaries. They allow egg cells to travel from the ovaries to the womb. In normal circumstances, the conception occurs in the fallopian tubes and thereafter implants in the lining of the uterine walls.

Menstrual Cycle

A hormonal activity happens in females once monthly. It means that the body prepares for a potential pregnancy, no matter the female’s intention. The periodic shedding of the uterine lining is known as menstruation.

In most cases, one menstrual cycle takes approximately 28 days and happens in a few phases. For example the follicular phase, the ovulatory phase (ovulation), and the luteal phase. In addition, certain major hormones are involved in the menstrual cycle including follicle-stimulating hormones (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), Estrogen, and Progesterone.

Follicular Phase

It begins on the first day of the period. Therefore, check below what events start to happen:

  • The brain releases LH and FSH that travel through the bloodstream to the ovaries.
  • These hormones stimulate the growth of roughly 15-20 eggs in the ovaries, each in its follicle.
  • Furthermore, LH and FSH also cause an increase in Estrogen levels. As a result, estrogen interrupts the follicle-stimulation hormone production.
  • Thereafter, one follicle in the ovary becomes dominant as the follicular phase progresses. Thus, it suppresses all other follicles and they no longer grow and die but the dominant follicle continues to make Estrogen.

Ovulatory Phase

The ovulatory phase (also known as ovulation) begins approximately 14 days after the first phase begins (follicular phase). This phase is considered the midpoint of the menstrual cycle. Check what events occur in this phase below:

  • An increase in Estrogen caused by a dominant follicle stimulates the brain to produce an increased amount of Luteinizing hormone. Hence, this process means that the dominant follicle releases the egg from the ovary.
  • After that, fimbriae (finger-like projections located on the end of the fallopian tubes) sweep the egg into the tube.
  • In addition, during ovulation, an increase in mucus is produced by the cervix. In case a person has sexual intercourse, the mucus helps to nourish and capture sperm and move it toward the egg. This process helps with egg fertilization.

Luteal Phase

This is the last phase of the menstrual cycle and it usually occurs right after ovulation. Check below what processes happen during this phase:

  • After the egg is released, the follicle starts to develop into corpus luteum (a new structure). This new structure releases Progesterone which helps to prepare the uterus for a fertilized egg.
  • In case a female has sexual intercourse and the sperm has fertilized the egg, it will travel through the fallopian tube to implant in the uterus. In such cases, a woman is considered pregnant.
  • However, if the egg is not fertilized, it is not necessary to support a pregnancy and the lining of the uterus breaks down and sheds. As a result, starts the menstrual cycle.

Additionally, approximately all eggs are depleted at menopause. However, at birth, there are roughly 1-2 million eggs. This amount decreases to 300,000 during puberty and only 500 can be ovulated during a female’s reproductive lifetime.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the primary functions of the reproductive system in women?

  • Producing gametes (also known as eggs or ova)
  • Responsible for some sex hormones
  • Maintain fertilized eggs

Consult with your healthcare professional for more details.

What are infections that can affect the female’s reproductive system?

  • Vaginitis
  • Gonorrhea
  • Chlamydia trachomatis
  • Genital herpes
  • Endometritis and salpingitis

It is recommended to visit a doctor if you suspect you have any of the infections listed above or any others.

What are women’s reproductive disorders?

  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
  • Interstitial cystitis
  • Gynecologic cancer
  • HIV and AIDS
  • Uterine fibroids
  • Endometriosis

Ask your physician if you have any questions.

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