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MAMTA Health Institute for Mother & Child | New Delhi

Internal sexual and reproductive organs

Female sexual organs are on the inside and outside of the body. The word vagina is often used to describe the genitals or female sexual organs, but actually it is just a part of them. The internal female sex organs include vagina, uterus (womb), the cervix, fallopian tubes (two in number), and the ovaries (two in number).

The vagina is a tube that connects the inside and outside female sexual organs. It is the canal extending from the uterus to the outside of the body, usually 3 to 5 inches long at rest. Externally it is seen as an opening located between the urethral and anal openings. The vagina is a muscular passageway lined with mucus membranes (i.e. skin which produces moisture, like the inside of the mouth). The vagina matures at puberty in a number of ways – it increases in length, and its mucous lining becomes thicker, more elastic, and turns a deeper colour; and also the glands begin to secrete their fluids and the inner walls of vagina change their secretion (to an acidic reaction). The secretions act as lubricant for sex, which makes it more comfortable and pleasurable. The secretions also protects against infections. Vagina is the passage between the vulva (the external sexual organs) and the womb (uterus). Menstrual blood flows through this passage to the outside. It is where the penis goes in during the intercourse and during childbirth the baby comes out.

The vaginal walls are rich in blood vessels but poorly supplied with nerve endings. Unlike the sensitive outer third of the vagina, the inner two-thirds are insensitive to touch. On the contrary, the entire vagina is sensitive to pressure, which can be experienced as sexually pleasurable. When there is arousal in women, the vagina becomes wetter and relaxes. This allows the penis to enter into the vagina. There is some control over vagina as it is a muscle and it can tense up or relax.

The two fallopian tubes open into the uterus (or womb). The uterus is the site of menstruation, implantation of the fertilised ovum and development of the foetus during pregnancy. It is like a strong muscular bag where a baby can grow. It is a pear shaped organ that is about 7.5 cm long, 5 cm wide, and 1.75 cm thick, when not pregnant. It is located in the pelvic region, low down in the belly. When a woman is not pregnant, i.e. no fertilized egg fixes itself to the lining of the womb, then the lining of uterus is shed every month as blood in a process called menstruation. If the egg is fertilized then in the inner lining of the womb it develops into a baby. To be able to hold a baby the uterus can stretch to become as big as 31cm (12 inches) in length. The opening to the uterus is called as the cervix. It is the entrance to the womb.

Ovaries, where the eggs develop, are the female gonads. They are on either side of the womb. They resemble almonds in shape and size, each about 1.5 inches long. Ovaries also produce the female sex hormones – estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen hormone causes the body to change during puberty, so the breasts develop and girls become sexually mature. Along with estrogen, progesterone makes the lining of the womb get thicker during menstruation and pregnancy. All girls are born with around 250,000 unfertilized egg cells in their ovaries. The size of the egg is very small as a pinhead.

Fallopian tubes are passages through which the mature eggs are transferred from the ovaries to the uterus. They are on each side of the womb and they join the ovaries to the womb. Each is about 10 cm long.

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