The Female Reproductive System
Note to Parents – Parents and teachers need to be aware that this installment on the reproductive system will contain the names of male and female body parts.
Last week we took a brief overview of The Male Reproductive System. This week we will cover the Female Reproductive System.
The primary function of the female reproductive system is not produce ovum or egg cells via meiosis, collecting sperm cells from the males, fertilization of the egg, then the development of the growing child until birth. Consequently, the functioning of the female system is significantly more complex than that of the male.
Like the male system, the female reproductive system is divided into an internal and external system.
I. Internal Female Reproductive System – The female internal system is responsible for the bulk of the entire system’s function.
A. Ovaries – The ovaries are a pair of glands, approximately the size of a large almond and sit just above the fallopian tubes. Ovaries produce the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Each ovary contains thousands of ovarian follicles. Each follicle is a tiny sphere of cells surrounding an undeveloped eggs cell. It is estimated that the average female has nearly one million ovarian follicles in her ovaries at birth. By the time she reaches puberty, half of the ovarian follicles have been absorbed by the body.
Approximately once every twenty-eight days, the level of estrogen drops. This causes the hypothalamus to increase production of gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH) which signals the pituitary to increase production of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). FSH reaches the ovary and causes 10-120 ovarian follicles to start the maturation process which also causes the ovarian follicle cells that surrounds the ovum to start releasing estrogen. The follicle with the most mature egg moves to the surface of the ovary where it is released.
B. Fallopian tubes – The fallopian tubes, also known as the oviducts, are a pair of tubes that extend from the uterus to the area surrounding the ovaries. The tubes flare at the top and more or less cradle the ovaries with twenty or more finger-like projections. The inner surface of the fallopian tubes contain a number of cilia that collectively create a current that draws the freshly released egg into and down the tube to the uterus. If the female has had sexual relations with a male, fertilization of the egg generally occurs in the fallopian tubes as the egg travels down to the uterus. In rare instances, the fertilized egg implants into the wall of the fallopian tube instead of the uterine wall. This condition is known as an ectopic pregnancy and generally fails to fully develop.
C. Uterus – The uterus, also known as the womb, is a pear shaped hollow muscular organ located in the lower abdomen. It sets in front of the rectum and behind the bladder. Under the right conditions, the fertilized egg will implant into the wall of the uterus. If not fertilized, the egg is expelled during the menstruation cycle. The uterine wall is comprised of four layers: endometrium, myometrium, parametrium and perimetrium.
1. Endometrium – The endometrium is the inner layer of the uterus. With each monthly cycle, this layer becomes enriched with extra blood and thickens. If the egg is not fertilized and does not implant into the endometrium layer, the entire layer is slough off and passed out of the body with the rest of the menstrual fluids and is replaced. If the egg is fertilized, it implants into the endometrium where it begins to develop and grow.
2. Myometrium – The myometrium is the middle or second layer of the uterus. It is primarily made up of smooth muscles. The myometrium functions in contraction associated with the monthly menstruation cycle to help expel the endometrium and excess fluids. It also functions in during labor where it contracts to expel the fully developed child.
3. Parametrium – The parametrium is a layer of connective tissue surrounding the uterus.
4. Perimetrium – The perimetrium is the outer most layer of the uterus. It is similar in structure and function to the peritoneum lining of the abdominal cavity.
D. Cervix – The cervix is the structure that connects the uterus to the vagina. It is a circular structure made up of smooth muscle (10-15%) and connective tissue (85-90%). The primary function of the cervix is to protect and maintain pregnancy. It also produces mucous and serous secretions that act to protect the unborn child and to lubricate the canal passage during childbirth. As the uterine muscle contract during childbirth, the cervix contracts, however these contractions allow the cervix to expand and dilate in size until it eventually produces a large enough opening for the child to pass through.
E. Vagina – The vagina is a fibrous tube that extends from the uterus to the external female genitalia. Its primary functions are to provide passage for the child during child birth and to accommodate the male penis during sexual intercourse.
II. External Female Reproductive System – The external female reproductive structures function as initial barriers to the internal structures, lubrication and arousal during sexual relations.
A. Labia Majora – The labia majora are a set of thick outer folds of skin that provide the initial covering of the vaginal opening, with a layer of course pubic hair on the exterior surface and smooth tissue on the inner surface.
B. Labia Minora – The labia minora are a set of thinner folds of skin that lie between the labia majora and the vaginal opening. In early development and before sexual relations, the posterior section of these folds is connected by a fold of skin known as the frenulum labiorum pudenda or fourchetter. The labia minora serve primarily as a protective curtain covering the inner mucous membranes of the vagina.
C. Clitoris – According to every medical and physiology reference located, the sole purpose of the clitoris is for sexual stimulation and pleasure in the female.
D. Bartholin’s Glands – Bartholin’s glands are a pair of glands located at the opening to the vagina. They produce a lubricating fluid during times of arousal and sexual relations.
Like the male reproductive system, the female system is intricately designed to carry out its role in marital relations and childbirth. We have touched on pregnancy and birth only briefly. We will discuss it in more detail in a future installment in this series.
In closing, we once again see the wonderful hand of the Almighty God who created man and woman. Marvelously and amazingly designed in ways that we may never fully comprehend, I can only say thank you to God for creating woman to be man’s partner for life.
When does life begin?
Take a journey from conception to birth with Dr. David Menton, former professor of anatomy at the prestigious Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Dr. Menton provides both a biblical and scientific answer to the question of when life begins.
Taken from one of Dr. Menton’s lectures, this video will reveal the wondrous design of the womb along with the numerous miracles involved along every step of the development of the unborn child.
Following the tragic starvation induced death of Terry Schiavo, Dr. Menton clearly shows the value and sanctity of human life.
With grace and sensitivity Dr. Menton concludes with a salvation message and explanation of the second birth process as described in John 3.