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Fertility basics

The Female Reproductive System

It may have been a while since you’ve studied an illustration of the female reproductive system, but now that you’re planning to become pregnant, it’s time to take another look at your interior and exterior structure so that you can be prepared to carry out conversations with your doctor during your pregnancy. The external female genitalia is also referred to as the vulva. It is made up of different organs, the most important ones being the pubic mound, both the labia majora and the labia minora (the inner and outer lips of the vagina), the vaginal opening, urethral opening (from where urine is dispensed), and the clitoris, which is very sensitive and becomes aroused during sexual activity.[1.Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health. (n.d.). “Reproductive Anatomy and Physiology.” Retrieved October 25, 2015, from http://www.columbia.edu/itc/hs/pubhealth/modules/reproductiveHealth/anatomy.html.] Internally, the female reproductive system includes the vagina, which is the passageway through which  women’s external sex organs are connected with the cervix and uterus. This is where the fetus passes through during pregnancy. Beyond the vagina is the cervix. It is a narrow, lower portion of the reproductive system that connects the vagina and uterus. Your cervix is what dilates during labor, and it also thins (called effacement) to allow the baby to pass through. In addition to the cervix and the vagina, the internal female anatomy also comprises the uterus. It is a pear-shaped muscular organ that is responsible for menstruation. It’s also here that most pregnancies develop. Usually, the uterus is about the size of a woman’s fist, but when pregnancy occurs, it can stretch many times that size. Sometimes, people refer to the uterus as “the womb.” The ovaries are also main components of the female reproductive system. There are two ovaries, each of which houses the eggs inside a woman’s body. Ovaries are also responsible for the production of the hormones progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. When a woman starts menstruating, the ovaries release eggs on a monthly basis (ovulation) until menopause. The eggs are carried to the uterus by the fallopian tubes. For fertilization to take place the sperm must make it all the way to the fallopian tubes. [2.Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc. (2014). “What Are the Parts of a Woman’s Internal Sex Anatomy?” Retrieved October 25, 2015, from https://www.plannedparenthood.org/learn/sexuality/reproductive-sexual-anatomy] The aforementioned body parts make up the anatomy of the female reproductive system. In the following section, we will discuss the egg cells in greater detail.   [avafootnote]

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