The female reproductive system (or female genital system) is made up
of the internal and external sex organs that function in reproduction
of new offspring. In the human the female reproductive system is
immature at birth and develops to maturity at puberty to be able to
produce gametes, and to carry a fetus to full term. The internal sex
organs are the uterus and Fallopian tubes, and the ovaries. The uterus
or womb accommodates the embryo which develops into the fetus. The
uterus also produces vaginal and uterine secretions which help the
transit of sperm to the Fallopian tubes. The ovaries produce the ova
(egg cells). The external sex organs are also known as the genitals
and these are the organs of the vulva including the labia, clitoris
and vaginal opening. The vagina is connected to the uterus at the
At certain intervals, the ovaries release an ovum, which passes
into the uterus. If, in this transit, it
meets with sperm, a single sperm can enter and merge with the egg,
fertilizing it. The corresponding equivalent among males is the male
usually occurs in the
and marks the
beginning of embryogenesis. The zygote will then divide over enough
generations of cells to form a blastocyst, which implants itself in
the wall of the uterus. This begins the period of gestation and the
embryo will continue to develop until full-term. When the fetus has
developed enough to survive outside the uterus, the cervix dilates and
contractions of the uterus propel the newborn through the birth canal
1 Internal organs
1.4 Fallopian tube
2 External organs
5 Clinical significance
5.2 Bacterial vaginosis
5.3 Yeast infection
5.4 Genital mutilation
5.5 Genital surgery
6 Reproductive rights
8 See also
10 External links
MRI showing the location of the vagina, cervix and uterus
Illustration depicting female reproductive system (sagittal view)
Frontal view as scheme of reproductive organs
The female internal reproductive organs are the vagina, uterus,
Fallopian tubes, and ovaries.
Main article: Vagina
The vagina is a fibromuscular (made up of fibrous and muscular tissue)
canal leading from the outside of the body to the cervix of the uterus
or womb. It is also referred to as the birth canal in the context of
pregnancy. The vagina accommodates the male penis during sexual
Semen containing spermatozoa is ejaculated from the male
at orgasm, into the vagina potentially enabling fertilization of the
egg cell (ovum) to take place.
Main article: Cervix
The cervix is the neck of the uterus, the lower, narrow portion where
it joins with the upper part of the vagina. It is cylindrical or
conical in shape and protrudes through the upper anterior vaginal
wall. Approximately half its length is visible, the remainder lies
above the vagina beyond view. The vagina has a thick layer outside and
it is the opening where the fetus emerges during delivery.
Main article: Uterus
The uterus or womb is the major female reproductive organ. The uterus
provides mechanical protection, nutritional support, and waste removal
for the developing embryo (weeks 1 to 8) and fetus (from week 9 until
the delivery). In addition, contractions in the muscular wall of the
uterus are important in pushing out the fetus at the time of birth.
The uterus contains three suspensory ligaments that help stabilize the
position of the uterus and limits its range of movement. The
uterosacral ligaments keep the body from moving inferiorly and
anteriorly. The round ligaments restrict posterior movement of the
uterus. The cardinal ligaments also prevent the inferior movement of
The uterus is a pear-shaped muscular organ. Its major function is to
accept a fertilized ovum which becomes implanted into the endometrium,
and derives nourishment from blood vessels which develop exclusively
for this purpose. The fertilized ovum becomes an embryo, develops into
a fetus and gestates until childbirth. If the egg does not embed in
the wall of the uterus, a female begins menstruation.
Main article: Fallopian tube
Fallopian tubes are two tubes leading from the ovaries into the
uterus. On maturity of an ovum, the follicle and the ovary's wall
rupture, allowing the ovum to escape and enter the Fallopian tube.
There it travels toward the uterus, pushed along by movements of cilia
on the inner lining of the tubes. This trip takes hours or days. If
the ovum is fertilized while in the Fallopian tube, then it normally
implants in the endometrium when it reaches the uterus, which signals
the beginning of pregnancy.
Main article: Ovary
The ovaries are small, paired organs located near the lateral walls of
the pelvic cavity. These organs are responsible for the production of
the egg cells (ova) and the secretion of hormones. The process by
which the egg cell (ovum) is released is called ovulation. The speed
of ovulation is periodic and impacts directly to the length of a
After ovulation, the egg cell is captured by the Fallopian tube, after
traveling down the
Fallopian tube to the uterus, occasionally being
fertilized on its way by an incoming sperm. During fertilization the
egg cell plays a role; it releases certain molecules that are
essential to guiding the sperm and allows the surface of the egg to
attach to the sperm's surface. The egg can then absorb the sperm and
fertilization can then begin. The
Fallopian tubes are
lined with small hairs (cilia) to help the egg cell travel.
Main article: Vulva
The vulva consists of all of the external parts and tissues and
includes the mons pubis, pudendal cleft, labia majora, labia minora,
Bartholin's glands, clitoris and vaginal opening.
Main article: Development of the reproductive system
Chromosome characteristics determine the genetic sex of a fetus at
conception. This is specifically based on the 23rd pair of chromosomes
that is inherited. Since the mother's egg contains an X chromosome and
the father's sperm contains either an X or Y chromosome, it is the
male who determines the fetus's sex. If the fetus inherits the X
chromosome from the father, the fetus will be a female. In this case,
testosterone is not made and the
Wolffian duct will degrade thus, the
Müllerian duct will develop into female sex organs. The clitoris is
the remnants of the Wolffian duct. On the other hand, if the fetus
inherits the Y chromosome from the father, the fetus will be a male.
The presence of testosterone will stimulate the
Wolffian duct which
will bring about the development of the male sex organs and the
Müllerian duct will degrade.
The reproductive tract (or genital tract) is the lumen that starts as
a single pathway through the vagina, splitting up into two lumens in
the uterus, both of which continue through the Fallopian tubes, and
ending at the distal ostia that open into the abdominal cavity.
In the absence of fertilization, the ovum will eventually traverse the
entire reproductive tract from the fallopian tube until exiting the
vagina through menstruation.
The reproductive tract can be used for various transluminal procedures
such as fertiloscopy, intrauterine insemination and transluminal
Vaginitis is inflammation of the vagina and largely caused by an
infection. It is the most common gynaecological condition presented.
It is difficult to determine any one organism most responsible for
vaginitis because it varies from range of age, sexual activity, and
method of microbial identification.
Vaginitis is not necessarily
caused by a sexually transmitted infection as there are many
infectious agents that make use of the close proximity to mucous
membranes and secretions.
Vaginitis is usually diagnosed based on the
presence of vaginal discharge, which can have a certain color, odor,
Main article: Bacterial vaginosis
This is a vaginal infection in women. It is differs from vaginitis in
that there is no inflammation.
Bacterial vaginosis is polymicrobial,
consisting many bacteria species. The diagnosis for bacterial
vaginosis is made if three of the following four criteria are present:
(1) Homogenous, thin discharge, (2) a pH of 4.5 in the vagina, (3)
epithelial cells in the vagina with bacteria attached to them, or (4)
a fishy odor. It has been associated with an increased risk of other
genital tract infections such as endometritis.
Main article: Vaginal yeast infection
This is a common cause of vaginal irritation and according to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at least 75% of adult women
have experienced one at least once in their lifetime. Yeast infections
are caused by an overgrowth of fungus in the vagina known as Candida.
Yeast infections are usually caused by an imbalance of the pH in the
vagina, which is usually acidic. Other factors such as pregnancy,
diabetes, weakened immune systems, tight fitting clothing, or douching
can also be a cause. Symptoms of yeast infections include itching,
burning, irritation, and a white cottage-cheese-like discharge from
the vagina. Women have also reported that they experience painful
intercourse and urination as well. Taking a sample of the vaginal
secretions and placing them under a microscope for evidence of yeast
can diagnose a yeast infection. Treatment varies from creams that can
be applied in or around the vaginal area to oral tablets that stop the
growth of fungus.
Main article: Female genital mutilation
There are many practices of mutilating female genitalia in different
cultures. The most common two types of genital mutilation practiced
are clitoridectomy, the circumcision of the clitoris and the excision
of the prepuce the skin around the clitoris. They can all involve a
range of adverse health consequences such as bleeding, irreparable
tissue damage, and sepsis which can sometimes prove fatal.
Main article: Genitoplasty
Genitoplasty refers to surgery that is carried out to repair damaged
sex organs particularly following cancer and its treatment. There are
also elective surgical procedures which change the appearance of the
International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics
International Federation of Gynaecology and Obstetrics was founded
in 1954 to promote the well-being of women particularly in raising the
standards of gynaecological practice and care. As of 2010 there were
124 countries involved.
Reproductive rights are legal rights related to reproduction and
reproductive health. Women have the right to control matters involving
their sexuality including their sexual and reproductive health.
Violation of these rights include forced pregnancy, forced
sterilization, forced abortion and genital mutilation. Female genital
mutilation is the complete or partial removal of a female's external
It is claimed in the Hippocratic writings that both males and females
contribute their seed to conception; otherwise, children would not
resemble either or both of their parents. Four-hundred years later,
Galen "identified" the source of 'female semen' as the ovaries in
female reproductive organs.
Development of the reproductive system
Evolution of sexual reproduction
Human sexuality#Female anatomy and reproductive system
^ Mahadevan, Harold Ellis, Vishy (2013). Clinical anatomy applied
anatomy for students and junior doctors (13th ed.). Chichester, West
Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 9781118373767.
^ "Details of genital development". Retrieved August 6, 2010.
^ a b c Zaino, Nucci, & Kurman, Richard, Marisa, & Robert.
"Diseas of the Vagina". CS1 maint: Multiple names: authors list
^ Anwar, Etin. "The Transmission of Generative Self and Women's
Contribution to Conception." Gender and Self in Islam. London:
Routledge, 2006. 75. Print.
The Wikibook Human Physiology has a page on the topic of: The female
Female reproductive system
Interactive diagram of female reproductive system
Human systems and organs
Collar bone (clavicle)
Thigh bone (femur)
Myeloid immune system
Lymphoid immune system
Islets of Langerhans
Female reproductive system
Theca of follicle
Vesicular appendages of epoophoron
Fossa of vestibule of vagina
Frenulum of labia minora
Frenulum of clitoris
Bulb of vestibule
Bartholin's glands/Bartholin's ducts
Skene's glands/Skene's ducts
Crus of clitoris
Events and phases
Basal body temperature
Extended cycle combined hormonal contraceptive
Premenstrual syndrome / Premenstrual dysphoric disorder
In culture and religion