Lesson 1
The Female Reproductive System


The organs of the reproductive systems are concerned with the general process of reproduction, and each is adapted for specialized tasks. These organs are unique in that their functions are not necessary for the survival of each individual. Instead, their functions are vital to the continuation of the human species. In providing maternity gynecologic health care to women, you will find that it is vital to your career as a practical nurse and to the patient that you will require a greater depth and breadth of knowledge of the female anatomy and physiology than usual. The female reproductive system consists of internal organs and external organs. The internal organs are located in the pelvic cavity and are supported by the pelvic floor. The external organs are located from the lower margin of the pubis to the perineum. The appearance of the external genitals varies greatly from woman to woman, since age, heredity, race, and the number of children a woman has borne determine the size, shape, and color. See figure 1-1 for the female reproductive organs.

Figure 1-1. The female reproductive organs (sagittal section).

Terms and Definitions

These are only a few terms and definitions that will be used in this lesson. Other terms and definitions will be dispersed throughout the lesson.

a. Broad Ligaments. Two wing-like structures that extend from the lateral margins of the uterus to the pelvic walls and divide the pelvic cavity into an anterior and a posterior compartment.
b. Corpus Luteum. The yellow mass found in the graafian follicle after the ovum has been expelled.
c. Estrogen. The generic term for the female sex hormones. It is a steroid hormone produced primarily by the ovaries but also by the adrenal cortex.
d. Fimbriae. Fringes; especially the finger-like ends of the fallopian tube.
e. Follicle. A pouch like depression or cavity.
f. Follicle Stimulating Hormone. The follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) is a hormone produced by the anterior pituitary during the first half of the menstrual cycle. It stimulates development of the graafian follicle.
g. Graafian Follicle. A mature, fully developed ovarian cyst containing the ripe ovum.
h. Hormone. A chemical substance produced in an organ, which, being carried to an associated organ by the bloodstream excites in the latter organ, a functional activity.
i. Lactation. The production of milk by the mammary glands.
j. Luteinizing Hormone. A hormone produced by the anterior pituitary that stimulates ovulation and the development of the corpus luteum.
k. Oocyte. A developing egg in one of two stages.
l. Ovum. The female reproductive cell.
m. Progesterone. The pure hormone contained in the corpora lutea whose function is to prepare the endometrium for the reception and development of the fertilized ovum.
n. Reproduction. The process by which an offspring is formed.

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