Let’s look at what lies within your fabulous reproductive system, a general overview of all the parts in simple, understandable terminology. It’s your body; let’s make sure you get acquainted.
Your reproductive system inside-out, literally…This basic diagram illustrates the location of each major part.
So, you’ve mapped out where everything is, now let’s introduce your outside genitalia called the vulva.
Here are some of the parts you may already be familiar with. The vaginal opening (introitus)is the tube that connects your outside and inside genitalia. On either side of your vaginal entrance deep within it’s tissue are the Bartholins glands, the size of a small bean these glands secrete mucus to keep the vagina moist and to lubricate the vagina ready for penetration (when you have sex).
Your labia majora is hidden behind a flap of skin and the two folds of fatty tissue that make up your labia majora conceal the other outside genitalia:
The labia minor increase with age, they are two parallel folds of soft tissue (extending from your clitoris to the lower vulva). Onto the clitoris, also know as the female penis where blood vessels and nerve endings make up this pea-shaped piece of erectile tissue. When stimulated your clitoris becomes engorged with blood (just like a male erection) and this stimulation can aid you in achieving an orgasm. In addition you have the mound of fatty tissue over your pubic bones (forming the pelvic girdle) called the mons veneris (mons pubis).
The hymen is a thin membrane covering the entrance to your vagina, which perforates at puberty. And lastly, you have the urethra the tube for urination located below your clitoris and above your vagina.
Your inside genitalia is contained within your pelvis, a protective carriage for the following delicate reproductive organs:
The musculature of your vagina is about 10cm from the entrance of your cervix. The vagina is used for sexual intercourse and also as a birth canal. Your vagina is amazing, it consists of layers of muscle ridges or folds (called rugae), which allow the vagina to stretch so much during labour. The pH of your vagina is mildly acidic.
The cervix many of us are aware of due to cervical screening programmes. But, do you know what it is and it’s important role in your fertility? Your cervix is a cap like structure at the top of your vagina; it has two openings – an external OS opening to the vagina and an internal OS opening to the uterus. If you are not pregnant the cervix protects infections from the vagina entering your internal reproductive system. Your cervix also acts as a gatekeeper, letting sperm enter at certain times in your menstrual cycle and keeping it out at others. The cervix also produces it’s own mucus that aids sperm survival at fertile times in your menstrual cycle and inhibits sperm survival (making a thicker mucus) at more infertile times. The cervix is incredible, changing throughout your cycle – becoming elevated and softer before ovulation (when your egg is released from one of your ovaries) and firm and lower after ovulation. The cervix is at maximum dilation at ovulation, closing shortly after.
By clenching your fist you can ascertain the approximate size of your uterus when you are not pregnant. Your uterus is protected by the pelvis and is located in your lower abdomen, connected by the cervix to your vagina and at the top it leads to your fallopian tubes. It is remarkable that when pregnant your uterus can stretch from 7.5cm to 37.5cm in length. The top part of your uterus is the body (corpus) where implantation of the fertilised egg occurs. The lower uterine area is the cervix as detailed about above. Your uterus can be likened to a hollow bag made of a strong outer muscle wall (myometrium) and an internal lining (endometrium) when you have your period (i.e. menstrual bleed) it is the uterine lining (endometrium) that sheds.
Your fallopian tubes are the two muscular tube structures about 10-12.5cm long and as wide as a pencil. The fallopian tubes are responsible for releasing and transporting the ovum (egg) when ovulation occurs. At the end of your fallopian tubes are finger-like structures called fimbrae, which hover over your ovaries and acts as hands to attract the ovum (egg) once it has been released at the time of ovulation. The ovum (egg) is then placed temporarily at the top of your fallopian tube (ampulla) to await fertilisation (conception). The ovum is then transported via the contractions of the fallopian tube and pushed along by the tiny hairs on the inside of each tube to the uterus. The ovum starts dividing as it travels down the fallopian tubes and buries itself in the endometrium wall (of the uterus) six days after fertilisation (conception).
And lastly, the ovaries, almond shaped glands about 10-12.5cm below your waist, only 5cm in length. At birth you have approximately 400,000 ova (egg cells) of which only a small proportion will ever mature. Your ovaries are the site where your ovum (egg) matures each month (28 days on average) and are also the production site of the female sex hormones – oestrogen and progesterone. For more detailed information about the role of your ovaries check out the articles about your menstrual cycle and ovulation.
For more interesting articles check out Naturally Fertile blogs.