Okay, this might sound horrible, but prior to undergoing IVF, I don’t think I ever properly learned all of my lady bits. I mean, of course I’ve heard the words before – cervix, vagina, ovaries, uterus – but I certainly couldn’t tell you where they were, and what they did (well, ovaries, yes, but the rest were all a bit hazy..).
When I stopped to think about it, it was surprising how little I knew about my body. Public education felt that it was important for me to know the inner workings of a flower, but not the inner workings of my body. Yes, I learned every single part of a flower from the pistil to the stamen and what it did. Yet, somehow, it wasn’t important to teach me about my reproductive system?
So when my Reproductive Endocrinologist started throwing the parts of my reproductive system around in casual conversation, I realized that it was time to educate myself in all the things that my 6th grade sex ed class failed to do…
So, here are the female reproductive organs and what they do- broken down. Because, really, we should all know the miracle that is the female body.
The vagina is a part of the female genital tract, a tubular passage that travels from the uterus to the vulva. At the far end, the cervix protrudes into the vagina (which is how you can check the cervical position, a sign of ovulation). The vagina is essential for both sex and for childbirth, as the baby travels through the canal. It also channels the monthly menstrual flow.
The cervix is the bottom section of the uterus. The narrow cervical canal connects the woman’s uterine cavity and the top of the vagina. During ovulation when the cervix is SHOW (Soft, High, Open, Wet) sperm travels through cervical canal in order to travel through the cervix to the egg. The cervix also produces cervical mucus, in which the sperm travels through, and during labor, the cervix flattens and dilates so that the fetus can pass through the vaginal canal.
The uterus is the organ that is connected to both the fallopian tubes and the cervix. It is here that the fetus grows and develops during pregnancy and gestation. The uterus is usually pear-shaped and about 3 inches long. It has three layers called the Endometrium (the lining of the uterine cavity that sheds each month, creating the menstrual flow. When TTC your ObGyn or Reproductive Endocrinologist will often measure the thickness of the cervix lining to see if it is ideal for implantation.), Myometrium, and Perimetrium.
The ovaries are part of the reproductive system. Ovulation usually occurs in one of the two ovaries each month, at random, and that ovary will then release an egg roughly midway through the menstrual cycle, up until menopause. In the case where one ovary was absent or not functioning, the other ovary would continue to produce the egg each month without any changes.
The Fallopian tubes are essential to the reproductive system, in that they are the tubes that allows the passage of the egg from the ovary, once it is released, to the uterus. The Fallopian tubes are lined with cilia, that helps move the egg along. An egg can be fertilized by sperm in the Fallopian tubes, but if the egg tries to attach here, instead of in the uterus, it can result in an ectopic pregnancy, and often times tubal damage can occur.