Understanding the Working of Female Reproductive System
When the Female Reproductive System Parts are Working Together, Magic Happens
The female reproductive system has several functions, all related to the propagation of the species. Female reproduction system is the cornerstone of reproduction, the male’s contribution is a lot less involved and complicated. To understand the female reproductive system, you first need to recognize that its main purpose is to provide a way for the egg and sperm to get together and, when they do, to nourish the growing infant until it’s ready to be born.
One of the most important parts of the female reproductive system, and the one that often causes the most infertility problems, is the ovaries. The ovaries are a pair of small glands, about the size and shape of almonds, located on the left and right sides of the pelvic body cavity to the sides and above the uterus. Ovaries produce female sex hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, as well as ova (commonly called “eggs”), the female gametes. The ova are the female contribution to the embryo, the male contribution is the sperm that fertilizes the ova, or egg.
A woman is born with all the ova she will ever have, packed into her ovaries as immature cells. After she hits puberty, one ova a month matures and then is expelled from the ovary where it travels down the fallopian tube, the tube that connects the ovary and the uterus. Conception happens when the egg is fertilized while it’s in the fallopian tube by sperm that is swimming up the tube at the time.
The Fallopian Tubes
This leads us to fallopian tubes, these are muscular tubes that attach the ovaries to the uterus. They end in a funnel-shaped structure called the infundibulum, which is covered with small finger-like projections called fimbriae. The fimbriae swipe over the outside of the ovaries like a brush to pick up the ova as it’s released, carry it to the infundibulum so it can be transported to the uterus.
The transportation is accomplished by cilia that cover the inside of each fallopian tube, the cilia work in conjunction with the smooth muscle of the tube to carry the ovum to the uterus. If the ovum isn’t fertilized in the fallopian tube, it will not implant in the uterus and develop into an embryo. Eggs are only viable for 12-24 hours so if they aren’t fertilized while in the tube they will disintegrate and be absorbed by the lining of the uterus.
Now if the egg (or ovum) is fertilized in the fallopian tube, when it reaches the uterus instead of disintegrating, it will implant into the wall of the uterus where the cells can continue to divide, growing the embryo into a fetus. In anticipation of the zygote implanting, the uterus has spent the last 14 days preparing a lining to nourish the possible embryo. This lining is a combination of mucus and blood.
If there is no zygote implanted the then uterine lining sheds about two weeks later during menstruation. If there is a zygote (which will turn into an embryo) implanted, the endometrium in the uterus develops a placenta which supports the developing fetus until it’s ready to be born. The uterus is normally approximately 3″L x 2″W x 1″D but stretches to the size of a watermelon during pregnancy.
The logical next question is, how does the sperm get into the uterus, so it can travel up the fallopian tube for a date with the egg? The answer is the vagina, a muscular tube that connects the exterior of the woman’s body to the cervix, the mouth of the uterus. What role does the cervix play in all of this? The cervix is like the guardian of the fertility site, the mucus layer allows sperm to swim through into the uterus while all other substances, primarily ejaculate, can’t penetrate.
Sperm can swim, so they can get through the layer of mucus, but ejaculate is just fluid and can’t move independently. Its’ main purpose is to carry the sperm along quickly, like a rushing river, delivering it to the cervix where the sperm start swimming for their lives. The ejaculate falls back out of the body through the vagina, which is how it got there in the first place. It’s a good thing that the cervix is such a good barrier because, while sperm is welcome in the uterus, ejaculate is not. Seminal fluid can cause the uterus to cramp, this isn’t good at any time and especially not good when you’re trying to get pregnant.
The Sperm’s Journey
So, how do the sperm get to the cervix so they can swim on into the uterus? Through the vagina, of course, the muscular tube that connects the outside of a woman’s body to the cervix. This is the tube the penis is inserted into to get the sperm deposited close to the cervix. The vagina is also the birth canal that the baby travels through while it’s being born. Menstrual blood also flows out the vagina if no pregnancy is achieved. Needless to say, the vagina stretches quite a bit when necessary.
20–40% Chance of Pregnancy per Month
That’s basically how the female reproductive system works, from egg in the ovary to the vagina for the baby to travel through as it’s being born. When the entire female reproductive system works as a unit, and the sperm is healthy, the average couple has a 20-40% chance of getting pregnant per month.
With all that goes into achieving a pregnancy it’s surprising more doesn’t go wrong but generally the female reproductive organs work just as they are supposed to. If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for over a year without success, it’s time to consult a fertility specialist just to see if everything is working like it should.