Reproductive System

by Sharon Hopkins

The male and female reproductive systems are ingenious in their working. Each part of the reproductive system works in synergy with the other to provide the ideal setting for a new life. Read on to understand the different parts and functions of the male and female reproductive system.

The Male Reproductive System

The male reproductive system is divided into internal and external genitalia which are responsible for the production and maintenance of sperm, transportation of the sperm and seminal fluid and the insertion of the sperm into the female reproductive system. Parts of the male reproductive system include:

  • The testes where millions of sperm cells are produced and stored. Pre-puberty, the testes develop in the abdomen and later move down and outside of the body, into the scrotum. The scrotum is a sac of skin that contains a number of tubules within which sperm is produced.
  • The ductus deferens and the urethra, through which the sperm travel through on their way to the penis.
  • Along the pathway from the testes to the urethra and the penis, there are a number of glands such as the prostate gland and the seminal vesicles that produce secretions. These secretions form a large portion of the semen that carries the sperm along and is ultimately ejaculated into the female at the time of sexual intercourse.
  • The penis is the organ used during sexual intercourse and consists of three parts, the root that attaches the organ to the abdomen, the shaft or body, and the glans or the head of the penis. Sexual arousal causes the penis to become erect and sperm is ejaculated from the penis at the time of orgasm or sexual climax.
The function of the male reproductive system can be divided into two parts. The first or primary function is the production of hormones such as testosterone. Male hormones are responsible for the manufacture of sperm and for producing secondary sex characteristics, typical of a male such as male pattern hair growth and the development of muscle mass. The second function involves the production of sperm, and semen – the fluid that surrounds the sperm.

The Female Reproductive System

The basic anatomy of the female reproductive system is as follows:

  • The external genitalia, known as the vulva and includes the clitoris, labia minora and labia majora
  • The uterus is connected to the vulva by the vagina. The vagina is responsible for collecting the sperm at the time of sexual intercourse and is the passage that the baby moves out through, at the time of birth.
  • Between the uterus and the vagina is the cervix, which acts as a protective barrier and protects the reproductive organs from infections.
  • The uterus is where the fetus is nurtured and develops during the nine months of pregnancy. It is lined with smooth muscle and tissue known as endometrium. If conception does not take place, the endometrium is expelled during the monthly menstrual cycle.
  • On either side of the uterus are the fallopian tubes. These tubes connect the uterus to the ovaries. Fertilization normally takes place in one or either fallopian tube. The environment within the tubes is optimized to encourage conception.  
  • The ovaries are the female gonads and are where eggs are produced. Women are born with all the eggs cells they will ever have. At the time of puberty, the cells mature into eggs and are released every month from the ovary in anticipation of conception. The release of an egg every month is known as the process of ovulation.
  • Hormone production also takes place within the ovaries. The two main hormones produced are progesterone and estrogen. The levels of these two hormones can fluctuate significantly at different points of a menstrual cycle and during a woman’s life. Female hormones such as estrogen are responsible for the development of female secondary sex characteristics such as breast growth.
The function of the female reproductive system is to produce and maintain the eggs, transport them safely via the fallopian tubes to await fertilization with the sperm and to provide a safe and nurturing environment for the fetus if and when conception takes place.

The process of reproduction begins with ovulation. As the mature egg is released from the ovaries, it travels through the fallopian tubes and awaits fertilization. If sexual intercourse takes place on and around the dates of ovulation, the chances of conception are higher. If the egg is not fertilized, menstruation will soon take place.

During sexual arousal and ejaculation, the male can deposit up to .2 fluid ounces of sperm in the vagina. This translates to roughly 900 million sperm that swim though the vagina and cervix to meet the egg in the fallopian tubes. However, it takes only one sperm to fertilize an egg.

The fertilized egg soon develops into a blastocyst or collection of cells that buries or implants itself into the walls of the uterus. This process is called implantation. After the process of implantation, the cells continue to multiply to ultimately form the fetus or embryo.

References:

  1. http://mcb.berkeley.edu/courses/mcb135e/repro.html
  2. http://mcb.berkeley.edu/courses/mcb135e/female.html

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