Female Sexuality Facts
Facts, Theories, And Information on Female
The Internal Female Sexual Organs - Continued 3
There are two Fallopian tubes, about four inches long, attached to each side of the upper portion of the uterus. Fallopian tubes are named after Gregorio Fallopio, the sixteenth century anatomist who discovered them.
They are quite narrow (one to two millimeters) and are the passageways that allow an ovum or egg from the ovary to reach the uterus or womb.
The Fallopian tubes are not attached to the ovaries but surround and envelop them at their upper end. The upper ends of the Fallopian tubes are open and look like the head of a trumpet with a fringed rim (the fringes are called "fimbriae").
When it is released from the ovary, the ovum or egg is drawn or swept into the opening of the Fallopian tube by natural suction and begins its movement downward toward the uterus, which is at the other end of the tube.
The walls of the Fallopian tubes are filled with hair like structures called cilia, which contract slightly along with the tubes, and assist the ovum in moving toward the uterus.
It is interesting to note that any sperm in the Fallopian tubes must move or swim against the downward tide or current of the cilia. Therefore, only the most mature, developed sperm can make the journey. This is the body's way of ensuring that if fertilization does take place, there is a good chance that a healthy pregnancy will occur.
Fertilization is when a sperm and ovum meet and connect usually occurs in the upper portion of a Fallopian tube. Occasionally Fallopian tubes get blocked; sometimes a fertilized ovum gets stuck in a Fallopian tube and develops there. This is called an ectopic pregnancy.
Women have two ovaries, one on each side of the upper part of the uterus. They are located well below each side of the navel or belly button, and are not directly connected to the uterus or Fallopian tubes. They are held in place by ovarian ligaments. The ovaries are almond shaped, about 1.5 inches long, 0.75 inch thick and 1 inch wide.
The ovaries have two important functions: through the process called ovulation they release ova or eggs, which can be fertilized by sperm from a man; they also produce female hormones called estrogen and progesterone.
Estrogen is crucial for sexual development, progesterone is very important for pregnancy. These hormones are passed directly from the ovaries into the bloodstream.
A woman is born with approximately 200,000 ova or eggs in each ovary (ovum is Latin for "egg"; ova is plural). Between 300 and 500 of these ova will be released during a woman's reproductive years. Each ovum is contained in a follicle, a cavity in which the immature egg can rest.
When the egg matures, it rises though the cavity and is released from the ovary into the Fallopian tube on that side. Ripening of the follicles so that they can release ova starts at puberty, when one follicle from either the right ovary or the left releases an ovum into a Fallopian tube.
This process is called ovulation, and occurs approximately once every four weeks from puberty to menopause. During the time a woman is pregnant, ovulation does not occur; it resumes its regular pattern after the birth of the baby.
Q: "I think I know when I am ovulating. Is that unusual?"
A: "No. You are among the women who can feel the ovum or egg leaving their ovary each cycle. Some women feel it as a cramp, slight pain or twinge. This event is known as Mittelschmerz or "middle pain," since ovulation usually occurs at around the midpoint of each woman's cycle."
Q: "Can a young woman have her period but never ovulate?"
A: "Yes, it quite often happens for the first year or so after a girl starts to menstruate. Thereafter it is very unusual, but certain emotional or hormonal problems can prevent ovulation. Denial of her femininity, or deep dependency on her parents may trigger this reaction. Counselling with a psychologist is required if this is the cause."
Q: "Can a doctor check my ovaries without inserting any device?"
A: "Yes. When you have your regular pelvic examination, your doctor does a manual examination of your ovaries. Using both hands, the doctor palpates or presses on your ovaries and feels for size, shape and any mass that may be growing there. This is a routine and desirable check."
Q. "What is an ovarian cyst?"
A: "An ovarian cyst is an abnormal growth in an ovary containing a collection of fluid. Ovarian cysts are fairly common and generally do not cause pain. They may disappear by themselves or they may need to be removed by surgery.
Usually only the cyst will be removed; the rest of the ovary then remains healthy, and normal menstruation and reproductive functioning continue. This particular procedure (culdoscopy) is performed by an instrument passed through the vagina to reach the diseased ovarian tissue.
The cyst on the ovary may also be reached through an incision in the navel (laparoscopy).
Both these methods avoid the necessity for major abdominal surgery.
Several medical opinions should be obtained before deciding what treatment to choose for ovarian cysts; ovaries should not be removed unless there is a very good reason for doing so."
Q . "Is it true that breastfeeding completely stops ovulation?"
A: "No. This is a misunderstanding that has led to many unintended pregnancies. At first, breastfeeding delays the onset of ovulation, but it soon begins again, so use a contraceptive as soon as you choose to make love after the birth." (If you want to know which may be the best sex positions for you, click on the link.)
Q: "What if only one ovary is removed? Can a woman still have children?"
A: "Yes. One ovary or even a piece of one ovary is sufficient to allow a follicle to release an ovum or egg during each cycle. The egg can become fertilized by a male sperm, and lead to a natural and healthy pregnancy and birth.
A fascinating and wonderful mystery of the body is how it sends messages to all organs and structures when changes need to be made. For example, when two ovaries are functioning, there is usually a pattern of one ovary releasing an egg during some cycles, and the other ovary releasing an egg during the remaining cycles.
This ovulation pattern varies from woman to woman, but when one ovary is removed the other simply takes over the entire job of ovulation and releases an ovum each month, so the woman has her periods just as before. Each ovary contains about 200,000 eggs, so there can never be a shortage."
Ovulation, the releasing of an egg each month, generally begins between the ages of ten and 14; the majority of young girls start to ovulate at 12, 13 or 14. It often happens that a young girl begins to menstruate, but doesn't ovulate for several cycles. These are called anovulatory cycles, and are quite normal in girls at puberty.
Ovulation usually stops sometime between the ages of 45 and 50, when menopause occurs. There are women who stop ovulating earlier than 45 and some who continue ovulating after 50 - these are normal variations and they do not indicate a problem or disease, nor do they interfere with sexual interest or performance.