The female reproductive system includes the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, vagina, vulva, mammary glands and breasts. These organs are involved in the production and transportation of gametes and the production of sex hormones. The female reproductive system also facilitates the fertilization of ova by sperm and supports the development of offspring during pregnancy and infancy.
As reproduction involves cooperation of several important body systems, at DIRM, we take a whole body approach to treatment. From anatomy and hormones to nutrition and mental health.
DIRM is truly a place where dreams, through science, become reality.
The female reproductive cycle is the process of producing an ovum and readying the uterus to receive a fertilized ovum to begin pregnancy. If an ovum is produced but not fertilized and implanted in the uterine wall, the reproductive cycle resets itself through menstruation. The entire reproductive cycle takes about 28 days on average, but may be as short as 24 days or as long as 36 days for some women.
Under the influence of follicle stimulating hormone (FSH), and luteinizing hormone (LH), the ovaries produce a mature ovum in a process known as ovulation. By about 14 days into the reproductive cycle, an oocyte reaches maturity and is released as an ovum. Although the ovaries begin to mature many oocytes each month, usually only one ovum per cycle is released.
Once the mature ovum is released from the ovary, the fimbriae catch the egg and direct it down the fallopian tube to the uterus. It takes about a week for the ovum to travel to the uterus. If sperm are able to reach and penetrate the ovum, the ovum becomes a fertilized zygote containing a full complement of DNA. After a two-week period of rapid cell division known as the germinal period of development, the zygote forms an embryo. The embryo will then implant itself into the uterine wall and develop there during pregnancy.
While the ovum matures and travels through the fallopian tube, the endometrium grows and develops in preparation for the embryo. If the ovum is not fertilized in time or if it fails to implant into the endometrium, the arteries of the uterus constrict to cut off blood flow to the endometrium. The lack of blood flow causes cell death in the endometrium and the eventual shedding of tissue in a process known as menstruation. In a normal menstrual cycle, this shedding begins around day 28 and continues into the first few days of the new reproductive cycle.
If the ovum is fertilized by a sperm cell, the fertilized embryo will implant itself into the endometrium and begin to form an amniotic cavity, umbilical cord, and placenta. For the first 8 weeks, the embryo will develop almost all of the tissues and organs present in the adult before entering the fetal period of development during weeks 9 through 38. During the fetal period, the fetus grows larger and more complex until it is ready to be born.
Lactation is the production and release of milk to feed an infant. The production of milk begins prior to birth under the control of the hormone prolactin. Prolactin is produced in response to the suckling of an infant on the nipple, so milk is produced as long as active breastfeeding occurs. As soon as an infant is weaned, prolactin and milk production end soon after. The release of milk by the nipples is known as the “milk-letdown reflex” and is controlled by the hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin is also produced in response to infant suckling so that milk is only released when an infant is actively feeding.
If you’re planning to start a family, you may be interested in finding out if you’re a carrier of hereditary conditions that are recessive in you but could become dominant in your child.