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Complete Guide On The Female Reproductive System

By Dr. Nikita Toshi +2 more

An overview

Several organs and hormones constitute the complete female reproductive system. The functions include the production of egg cells required for reproduction, transporting the eggs to the site of their fertilisation and implanting a fertilised egg into the uterus walls (commencement of pregnancy). When fertilisation has not happened or the fertilised egg has not got implanted onto the wall of the uterus, the female reproductive system ejects the lining of the uterus (menstruation). The production of female sex hormones that maintain the reproductive cycle is also a function of the female reproductive system. Therefore, the system is an amalgamation of many organs, each with its specific role.

The basic parts of the female reproductive system

The female reproductive system has parts inside and outside the female body. These broadly are:-

  • The external genitalia consists of the vaginal opening, the labia majora, the labia minora and the clitoris.
  • The genital tract, i.e. the vagina, the fallopian tubes and the uterus.
  • The female sexual response and hormonal control.
  • The mammary glands that comprise the breasts.

The external genitalia

There are two primary roles of the external female genitals. The first one is to permit the male sperms to enter the female body. The other is to protect the internal portions of the genitals from organisms that carry infections. There are four major parts to the external female genitalia. These are:

  • The vaginal opening is the gateway through which sexual intercourse happens and a baby enters the world in regular deliveries. Normal deliveries are thus known as vaginal birth or delivery.
  • The labia majora or the large lips, contain glands for sweat and oil secretion. The other external reproductive organs remain enclosed and protected by the labia majora.
  • The labia minora or the small flaps, protect the opening to the canal, joining the lower part of the uterus to the outside of the female body (vagina). It also surrounds the tube known as the urethra that carries urine from the bladder to the outside of the body. 
  • The Bartholin’s glands secrete a fluid (mucus) beside the vaginal opening.
  • The clitoris is a small, sensitive protrusion where the two small lips meet. The prepuce, a small skin fold, covers the clitoris. The clitoris is exposed to sexual stimulation. 

Female reproductive system is a complex organisation with interlinking of various hormones such as Thyroid, oestrogen, progesterone, Luteal hormone, Follicle stimulating hormone. These hormones are secreted by brain, thyroid gland and ovaries.

Dr. M.G. Kartheeka, MBBS, MD

The genital tract

The vagina, the fallopian tubes and the uterus comprise the genital tract of the female reproductive system.

  • The vagina joins the lower part of the uterus, known as the cervix, to the outside of the body. The vagina is often referred to as the birth canal.
  • The fallopian tubes are two narrow tubes, one from each ovary, attached to the upper part of the uterus. They are the pathways for the eggs to travel from the ovaries to the uterus. An egg normally gets fertilised by a sperm while in the fallopian tube. The fertilised egg then proceeds to the uterus and implants itself into the lining of the uterus, commencing a pregnancy.
  • The uterus is the home of the developing foetus and is often considered the most important part of the female reproductive system. The uterus is hollow and pear-shaped. It has two parts. The lower part of the cervix opens into the vagina. A canal runs through the cervix and serves as a passage for the entry of sperm as well as an exit for menstrual blood. The upper part, known as the corpus, expands to hold a baby as it gradually develops within.

Also Read: Anteverted Uterus: Clarifying Misconceptions and Understanding Its Impact

The ovaries

The ovaries are the primary reproductive organs or gonads. These two almond-shaped organs, one on each side of the uterus, are located in the walls of the pelvic cavity. The eggs and the female reproductive hormones are produced in the ovaries.

Also Read: How to Flush Out Excess Estrogen: Natural Methods Backed by Research

The female hormonal control

  • Hormonal control: The functioning of the female reproductive system is regulated by the follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinising hormone, oestrogen and progesterone. At puberty (about 12 years of age), the menstrual cycle or periods, as understood in common terms, begins in females with the secretion of the follicle-stimulating hormone and the luteinising hormone acting upon the ovaries and the uterus. The menstrual cycle ends at menopause, which is usually in the age range of 45 to 55 years, with a decrease in the secretion and levels of ovarian hormones. 
  • Derranged levels of any of the female hormones can present as irregular or missed periods. 

Female sexual dysfunction, fibroids, Polycystic ovarian disease and gynecologic cancers are common health conditions associated with the female reproductive system. Consultation with a gynaecologist is very important if you encounter any changes in your menstrual cycle or if you see any health-related changes in your body.

Dr. Ashish Bajaj, M.B.B.S., M.D.

The mammary glands

Mammary glands are located in the breast. Though they are present both in males and females, their functionality is in females. Each breast has a nipple and the nipple is surrounded by the areola, which is a circular, pigmented area. An adult female breast contains lobes of glandular tissue. During puberty, the oestrogen hormone stimulates the growth of these glandular tissues. Progesterone causes the development of the duct system. Each lobe has lobules and a lactiferous duct transports milk collected from the lobules to the nipple.

During pregnancy, these two hormones further develop the mammary glands (breasts). Milk production in the glandular tissue is stimulated by prolactin, while oxytocin causes the milk to be ejected from the glands.

The menstrual cycle

The menstrual cycle involves several different glands and their hormones in a complex process. Throughout the process, each gland and structure is influenced by the others involved in the process. The cycle is triggered by a structure in the brain known as the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus stimulates its neighbour, the pituitary gland, to produce sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone. With every menstrual cycle, a woman’s body prepares itself for a potential pregnancy. This biological cycle is independent of the wishes of the individual female. 

A female must consult a doctor in case of any problems related to menstruation, pregnancy or sexual health without hesitation. 


Q1. A woman has how many eggs?

Ans: Starting off with about 1 to 2 million eggs at birth, a woman is likely to be left with about 300000 when she attains puberty. Of these, she will ovulate about 500 of these during her reproductive phase of life. The remainder will gradually die out through menopause.

Q2. Is ovulation the best time to get pregnant?

Ans: Conceiving is all about timing. In a 28-day cycle, ovulation occurs on the 14th day. The best days of conception are three days before and after your ovulation. You will, however, be required to keep track of your periods over a few cycles to determine your ovulation dates.

Q3. What is the best time to have intercourse without fear of pregnancy?

Ans: You will need to keep track of your periods over time. The 5th to 9th day and 18th day after your last period started would signify the so-called safe days for intercourse. This can go wrong in case your ovulation is not regular. Additionally, the use of condoms can provide added protection not only from conceiving but also from sexually transmitted infections. Talk to your doctor about other methods of contraception that may suit you- IUD, contraceptive pills etc.

Q4. Which is the most important part of the female reproductive system?

Ans: Every organ and hormone of the reproductive system is important. Considering childbirth, the uterus or the womb may be considered an extremely important part of the female reproductive system. That being stated, every part of the reproductive system needs to fulfil its role in a healthy state for the system to function for reproduction.

Q5. What is the life span of sperm inside a woman?

Ans: The life of male sperm inside a woman’s body is generally five days. Therefore, intercourse up to 5 days prior to ovulation may lead to conception and pregnancy.

Disclaimer: The information included on this site is for educational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for medical treatment by a healthcare professional. Because of unique individual needs, the reader should consult their physician to determine the appropriateness of the information for the reader’s situation.


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