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The female reproductive system consists of the ovaries, uterine tubes, uterus, vagina, and external genitalia. These organs remain underdeveloped for about the first 10 years of life. During adolescence, sexual development occurs and menses first occur (menarche). Cyclic changes occur throughout the reproductive period, with an average cycle length of approximately 28 days. These cycles cease at about the fifth decade of life (menopause), at which time the reproductive organs become atrophic.


The following genital organs and glands comprise the female reproductive system (Figure 14-1A and B):

  • Ovaries. The ovaries are the primary female sex organ because they produce eggs (ovum or oocytes) and sex hormones (e.g., estrogen).

    • Topography. Located within the posterior region of the broad ligament, near the lateral wall of the pelvic cavity.

    • Ovulation. The release of oocytes from the ovary, through the tunica albiginea and peritoneum into the peritoneal cavity.

    • Vascular supply. Supplied by the ovarian artery (aortic origin), which is contained within the suspensory ligament; blood from the ovary drains into pampiniform plexus of veins (which drain into the left renal vein on the left and IVC on the right).

  • Uterine tubes (aka Fallopian tubes or oviducts). The luminal diameter of the uterine tubes is very narrow (as wide as a human hair). In contrast to the male reproductive system, where the tubules are continuous with the testes, the uterine tubes are separate from the ovaries. Functions of the uterine tube are as follows:

    • Transport oocyte. Conveys the fertilized or unfertilized oocytes to the uterus by ciliary action and muscular contraction.

    • Transport spermatozoa. Conveys spermatozoa from the uterine cavity to fertilize the oocyte in the infundibulum or ampulla.

    • Connection. Connects the uterine cavity with the peritoneal cavity.

Figure 14-1:

A. Coronal section of the uterus and uterine tubes. B. Uterus, uterine tubes, and peritoneum. C. Sagittal section through the broad ligament of the uterus.

The parts of the uterine tube are as follows:

  • Infundibulum. The funnel-shaped, peripheral end of the uterine tube.

    • Fimbriae. Finger-like projections of the infundibulum. The beating movement of the fimbriae may create currents in the peritoneal fluid to carry oocytes into the uterine tube lumen.

  • Ampulla. Region of the uterine tube where fertilization usually occurs.

  • Isthmus. The constricted region of the uterine tube where each tube attaches to the superolateral wall of the uterus.

image Ectopic pregnancy. Occurs when a fertilized egg implants in the uterine tube or peritoneal cavity. The uterine tubes are not continuous with the ovaries so a risk is that fertilization and implantation may occur outside of the uterine tubes in the peritoneal cavity. Ectopic pregnancies usually result in loss of the fertilized ovum and in hemorrhage, putting the health of the woman at risk.▼


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