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Female Reproductive System: Functions & Structures

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  • 0:02 Female Reproductive System
  • 0:40 Ova
  • 1:10 Female Duct System
  • 2:32 Ovaries
  • 4:18 Uterus & Vagina
  • 4:47 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

The primary function of the female reproductive system is to produce offspring. In this lesson, you'll travel through the female reproductive system. Along the way, you'll learn about important structures and the roles they play in creating life.

Female Reproductive System

Almost every system in your body has been fully functional since the day you were born. That's because systems, like your digestive system and cardiovascular system, are needed to keep you alive.

However, there's one system that doesn't 'wake up' until you reach puberty. I'm referring to your reproductive system; this system is not as crucial to your daily survival but is needed for the survival of mankind. The male and female reproductive systems work together to create a newborn baby, but in this lesson, we'll focus most of our attention on the female reproductive system and its important role in producing offspring.

Ova

There's no denying that a newborn baby is both cute and amazing at the same time. A newborn's journey started nine months prior when two gametes, or sex cells, joined together inside the female reproductive system. The male gamete is called sperm; it has only one goal at this point, which is to meet up with, and fertilize, the female gamete called the ova, or egg. Let's take a look at how and where this meeting occurs.

Female Duct System

Sperm needs to travel through a few structures in order to find the egg. Sperm enters the female reproductive duct system through the vagina, which is a 3- to 4-inch-long tube that acts as the entry point for sperm. From there, the sperm travels through the cervix and enters the uterus, which is a pear-shaped organ with thick walls. These thick walls aren't important at this stage because the uterus is just acting as a passageway for sperm; however, the uterus has another big job that makes these thick walls important. We'll discuss this second job later in the lesson.

The journey through the reproductive duct system is a difficult one for the tiny sperm, and many don't make it. Fortunately, there are many sperm taking this journey at the same time, so some will make it to the next leg of the journey, which is into the fallopian tubes, or uterine tubes, as they are also called. There are two fallopian tubes that extend off the top of the uterus in opposite directions. Their primary function is to act as a passageway between the uterus and the ovaries. However, if conditions are right, they take on a second responsibility, which is to become the typical site for fertilization. Of course, fertilization will only occur if an egg is present. For that to happen, we need to learn about the ovaries.

Ovaries

The ovaries are paired reproductive organs that produce the eggs. They are no bigger than almonds, yet without them, reproduction would not occur. If we were to look inside an ovary, we would see tiny sacs that contain the immature eggs, known as ovarian follicles. Each follicle matures over about a 1-month period, allowing the egg inside time to develop. A fully matured follicle is called a Graafian follicle. The egg inside the mature follicle is ready to break out and leave the ovary, which is what we call ovulation.

This marks the start of the egg's journey, but before we leave the ovaries, I want to point out that they're not just a site for egg production. The ovaries also produce hormones. Specifically, the ovaries produce female sex hormones, which play a role in waking up the reproductive system when a girl reaches puberty, guiding her monthly menstrual cycle, and sustaining a pregnancy.

Okay, back to our newly released egg. After ovulation, the freed egg is swept into the adjacent fallopian tube by waving, finger-like projections on the end of the fallopian tubes called fimbriae. The moving fimbriae not only direct the egg into the tube, they also create a current that propels the egg down the tube. If there are sperm in the tube, and conditions are right, the traveling egg gets fertilized.

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