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Your Guide to the Female Reproductive System

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What Parts Make up the Female Anatomy? continued...

The internal reproductive organs in the female include:

  • Vagina: The vagina is a canal that joins the cervix (the lower part of uterus) to the outside of the body. It also is known as the birth canal.
  • Uterus (womb): The uterus is a hollow, pear-shaped organ that is the home to a developing fetus. The uterus is divided into two parts: the cervix, which is the lower part that opens into the vagina, and the main body of the uterus, called the corpus. The corpus can easily expand to hold a developing baby. A channel through the cervix allows sperm to enter and menstrual blood to exit.
  • Ovaries: The ovaries are small, oval-shaped glands that are located on either side of the uterus. The ovaries produce eggs and hormones.
  • Fallopian tubes: These are narrow tubes that are attached to the upper part of the uterus and serve as tunnels for the ova (egg cells) to travel from the ovaries to the uterus. Conception, the fertilization of an egg by a sperm, normally occurs in the fallopian tubes. The fertilized egg then moves to the uterus, where it implants into the lining of the uterine wall.

What Happens During the Menstrual Cycle?

Females of reproductive age experience cycles of hormonal activity that repeat at about one-month intervals. With every cycle, a woman's body prepares for a potential pregnancy, whether or not that is the woman's intention. The term menstruation refers to the periodic shedding of the uterine lining. (Menstru means "monthly.'')

The average menstrual cycle takes about 28 days and occurs in phases: the follicular phase, the ovulatory phase (ovulation), and the luteal phase.

There are four major hormones (chemicals that stimulate or regulate the activity of cells or organs) involved in the menstrual cycle: follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, estrogen, and progesterone.

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