3-19. THE FEMALE REPRODUCTIVE SYSTEM
The female reproductive system consists of the gonads (ovaries), the fallopian
tubes (oviducts), the uterus (womb), the vagina, and the external genitalia (vulva). The
mammary glands are also sometimes considered to be a part of the reproductive
a. The Ovaries.
(1) The ovaries (figure 3-12) are a pair of flattened, oval bodies about 3
centimeters long, 1.5 centimeters wide, and one centimeter thick. They are located in
the ovarian fossae, depressions on the lateral walls of the pelvis, on each side of the
uterus. The ovaries are suspended from the broad ligament of the uterus by a fold of
peritoneum, called the mesovarium, and attached to the uterus by the ovarian ligament.
(2) In the ovary, the germinal epithelium covers the surface. The interior of
the ovary, the stroma, consists of connective tissue that is abundantly supplied with
blood vessels. Embedded within the meshes of this framework is a large supply of
vesicular follicles in varying stages of growth, each of which may form an egg cell
(ovum). The follicles also produce the female sex hormones that are essential in the
development of secondary sex characteristics, as well as the menstrual cycle, gestation,
and lactation. However, other hormones formed in the anterior lobe of the pituitary
gland regulate their production.
b. The Fallopian Tubes or Oviducts. The paired oviducts, or uterine tubes
(figure 3-12A), are flexible, muscular, trumpet-shaped tubes about 10 centimeters in
length and 1 to 8 millimeters in diameter. These tubes are in contact with the ovaries,
but not continuous with them. The larger, funnel-shaped end of each tube has a fringed
border that opens into the peritoneal cavity near the lateral border of the ovary. The
more slender portion of the tube extends medially across the ovary and opens into the
superior lateral wall of the uterus. The ovum (egg cell) extruded from the ovary is
conveyed to the uterus through the fallopian tube. Fertilization of the ovum usually
occurs in the tube, after which the fertilized ovum is generally passed on to the uterus.
c. The Uterus. The uterus (figure 3-13) is a hollow, muscular, pear-shaped
organ that varies considerably in size and shape, but averages
7 centimeters in length, 5 centimeters in maximum width, and 2.5 centimeters in
thickness. Located in the pelvic cavity between the rectum and urinary bladder, it
presents two regions: the body and the neck.
(1) The body, or corpus uteri, is the main portion. It provides protection,
support, and nourishment for the developing embryo. The contractions of its thick,
muscular walls supply the expulsive force necessary for parturition (childbirth).
(2) The neck, or cervix, is the narrow lower third of the uterus. It contains
the cervical canal, which is continuous with the main cavity in the body of the uterus.