Background notes

 

Reproductive and sexual anatomy: Females

 

Overview

The female reproductive and sexual anatomy includes the external and internal sex organs, such as the vulva and vagina, and the internal reproductive organs, such as the ovaries and uterus. The female reproductive system produces hormones, which help a girl develop into a sexually mature woman during puberty. Females also use these organs to produce and release eggs which, when fertilised by a male's sperm, grow into a baby in the uterus.

Female reproductive organs

 
Organ Description Function
Vulva External genitalia Protects vaginal and urinary openings
Labia majora (outer lips)

Part of the vulva

Two folds of skin, covered with hair and forming a pad of fatty tissues on the pubic bone
The outer folded skin enclosing the labia minora (inner lips) and vaginal and urinary openings
Labia minora (inner lips)

Part of the vulva

Two folds of skin, within the labia majora  
The hairless folds of skin between the outer lips that enclose the clitoris and vaginal opening
Clitoris

Part of the vulva

Located above the opening of the urethra, a highly sensitive gland packed with nerve endings

Becomes enlarged when aroused
Sexual pleasure
Hymen

Membrane that covers the entrance to the vagina   

Helps to protect the vaginal opening
Vagina

Muscular tube from the uterus to the vulva and external body

Elastic in nature (potential space rather than a 'black hole')

Allows passage of menstrual blood flow from the uterus and the conduct of sexual intercourse

Birth passage

Ovaries Two oval-shaped glands located on both sides of the uterus within the pelvic cavity

Contain ova/ovum (eggs) to be released monthly as part of the menstrual cycle

Produce the female hormones progesterone and oestrogen
Fallopian tubes

Narrow tubes joining the ovary and the uterus

The ovary end of the tube has finger-like projections floating and reaching over the ovaries to help sweep up the egg

An egg (ova) or eggs (ovum) moves down the fallopian tube(s) after being released from the ovary

Fertilisation can take place within the fallopian tube or uterus
Uterus

Hollow muscular organ shaped like an upside down pear which lies in the centre of the pelvis

Stretches and expands with growth of the foetus during pregnancy
Organ in which the initial embryo, and later the foetus, grows and provides a total nurturing environment

Relevant resources

Illustrations

Female reproductive system 

Fact sheets/booklets/videos

Girls and puberty


This Background Note relates to the following Learning Activities: