a. Uterine Tubes (Fallopian Tubes, Oviducts). Extending to either side of the uterus are two muscular tubes which open at the outer ends like fringed trumpets. The fringe-like appendages encircle the ovaries. At their medial ends, the uterine tubes open into the uterus. The function of the uterine tubes is to pick up the ovum when released from the ovary and hold it UNTIL one of the following happens:
(1) It is fertilized. After fertilization, the initial stages of embryo development take place. The developing embryo is eventually moved into the uterus.
(2) The nutrient stored within the ovum is used up and the ovum dies. This may take three to five days.
b. Uterus. The uterus is the site where all but the first few days of embryo development takes place. After eight weeks of embryonic development, it is known as the fetus.
(1) Main subdivisions. The uterus is shaped like a pear, with the stem (cervix) facing downward and toward the rear. The fundus is the portion of the uterus above the openings of the uterine tubes. The main part, or body, is the portion between the cervix and the fundus. The uterus usually leans forward with the body slightly curved as it passes over the top of the urinary bladder. The cervix opens into the upper end of the vagina.
(2) Wall structure. The inner lining of the uterus is called the endometrium. Made up of epithelium, it is well supplied with blood vessels and glands. The muscular wall of the uterus is called the myometrium. In the body of the uterus, the muscular tissue is in a double spiral arrangement. In the cervix, it is in a circular arrangement.
(3) Age differences. The uterus of an infant female is undeveloped. During puberty, the uterus develops. The uterus of an adult is fully developed. The uterus of an old woman is reduced in size and nonfunctional.
c. Vagina. The vagina is a tubular canal connecting the cervix of the uterus with the outside. It serves as a birth canal and as an organ of copulation. It is capable of stretching during childbirth. The lower opening of the vagina may be partially closed by a thin membrane known as the hymen.
d. External Genitalia. Other terms for the external genitals of the human female are vulva and pudendum. Included are the:
(1) Mons pubis. The mons pubis is a mound of fat tissue covered with skin and hair in front of the symphysis pubis (the joint of the pubic bones).
(2) Labia majora. Extending back from the mons pubis and encircling the vestibule (discussed below) are two folds known as the labia majora. Their construction is similar to the mons pubis, including fatty tissue and skin. The outer surfaces are covered with hair. The inner surfaces are moist and smooth. The corresponding structure in the male is the scrotum.
LABIA = lips (LABIUM, singular)
(3) Labia minora. The labia minora are two folds of skin lying within the labia majora and also enclosing the vestibule. In front, each labium minus (minus = singular of minora) divides into two folds. The fold above the clitoris (discussed below) is called the prepuce of the clitoris. The fold below is the frenulum.
(4) Clitoris. The clitoris is a small projection of sensitive erectile tissue which corresponds to the male penis. However, the female urethra does not pass through the clitoris.
(5) Vestibule. The cleft between the labia minora and behind the clitoris is called the vestibule. It includes the urethral opening in front and the vaginal opening slightly to the rear.
e. Pregnancy and Delivery. When an embryo forms an attachment to the endometrium, a pregnancy exists. The attachment eventually forms a placenta, an organ joining mother and offspring for such purposes as nutrition of the offspring. The fetal membranes surround the developing individual (fetus) and are filled with amniotic fluid.
(1) During the first eight weeks, the developing organism is known as an embryo. During this time, the major systems and parts of the body develop.
(2) During the remainder of the pregnancy, the developing organism is known as the fetus. During this time, growth and refinement of the body parts occur.
(3) Parturition is the actual delivery of the fetus into a free- living state. The delivery of the fetus is followed by a second delivery-- that of the placenta and fetal membranes.
f. Menstruation and Menopause. About two weeks after an ovum is released, if it is not fertilized, menstruation occurs. Menstruation involves the loss of all but the basal layer of the endometrium. This process includes bleeding. It first occurs at puberty and lasts until menopause (45 to 55 years of age). After menopause, pregnancy is no longer possible.
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