Reproductive System Overview

This section details the female reproductive system and processes including, menstruation and ovulation. A thorough understanding of these processes will assist in your quest to increase fertility and conceive a child.

The passageway from the exterior of the female body to the cervix is known as the vagina. The cervix is the lower portion of the uterus -the organ where the egg, once fertilized, attaches and develops to maturity. The uterus is lined with a nutrient rich membrane known as the endometrium (this is the lining that is shed whenever conception does not occur). Extending from either side of the top of the uterus are the fallopian tubes. The tubes connect to the ovaries, two small organs that produce eggs and the female sex hormone, estrogen.

At the time of birth, a woman’s ovaries contain approximately 400,000 eggs. Controlled by the monthly fluctuations in hormone levels, these eggs are qued one by one in a monthly cycle known as menstruation. Menstruation starts when a female has reached sexual maturity. At this time, eggs begin reaching maturity at a typical rate of one ovum, or egg, per monthly cycle. At mid-cycle, called ovulation, a single egg is typically released from the ovaries. The egg travels down the fallopian tube toward the uterus. It is at this brief time, when the egg is in the fallopian tube, that conditions are optimal for fertilization by the male’s sperm to result in pregnancy.

A. Vagina - the female organ of sexual intercourse and birth canal.
B. Cervix – lower portion of the uterus that opens into the vagina.
1. Cervical mucus – a secretion produced in the cervical area in response to hormonal stimulation.
C. Uterus – the womb; the female reproductive organ that nourishes the developing fetus.
1. Endometrium – inner lining of uterus
D. Fallopian Tubes - where the sperm normally meets the egg and fertilizes it.
1. Proximal tube – portion of tube closest to the uterus
2. Distal tube – portion of tube closest to the ovary
3. Fimbria – finger like projections at the end of the fallopian tube nearest to the ovary that capture the egg and assist in moving into the tube
4. Cilia – hair-like structures in the tube that move egg, sperm, and the resulting embryo
E. Ovary – the female gonad; the ovaries produce eggs and female sex hormones. (link to Normal Menstrual Cycle, next section)
1. Follicles – small egg-containing sacs in the ovaries
2. Ovum (egg) -the female reproductive cell; it is found in the follicle
3. Corpus luteum – the ruptured follicle that produces progesterone after ovulation has taken place
F. Hormones
1. FSH – Follicle Stimulating Hormone – the pituitary hormone that stimulates follicle growth in women and sperm formation in men
2. LH – Luteinizing Hormone – the pituitary hormone that causes the testicles in men and the ovaries in women to produce sex hormones
3. Estradiol – the principal estrogen produced by the ovary
4. Progesterone – the female hormone produced by the corpus luteum after ovulation; it prepares the uterine lining for implantation and maintains a pregnancy