Two sexual glands that produce the hormones, estrogen and progesterone, and store premature eggs (ova). At birth the ovaries already contain 2 to 4 million immature eggs called primary oocytes or ova. These are all the eggs a woman will ever have. Each egg is encased in a thin layer of cells called a primary follicle. As time goes by some oocytes are broken down and reabsorbed into the body. By the time a girl has her first period, around 400,000 immature eggs will remain. Beginning during puberty and once sexually mature, around 25 of these immature eggs ripen each month. Usually one (occasionally two or more) ripen fully in any given month. The follicles surrounding each egg are stimulated to produce estrogen by hormones from the pituitary gland. The estrogen causes the egg and follicle to grow. When an egg has ripened fully, its follicle bulges from the side of the ovary. The follicle and a tiny spot on the ovary's surface ruptures releasing the egg into the opening of the fallopian tube. This process is called ovulation. The ruptured follicle left behind by this egg seals itself together and forms a corpus luteum, which secretes the hormone progesterone and some estrogen. These rising levels of hormones turn off the hormone from the pituitary that initially started growth of the follicle. If the egg is not fertilized and thus no more hormones are produced to sustain the follicle, it degenerates, estrogen and progesterone levels drop, and the new monthly cycle begins. Usually one egg is released from one ovary per month. The ovary involved in ovulation alternates month to month. The other eggs, which fail to mature fully, are reabsorbed into the body. This process continues until menopause occurring in the late 40's or 50's, when the egg supply runs out.
Two tubes, each of which provides a passageway from the ovary to the uterus. Once ovulation occurs, the released egg is funneled into the nearest fallopian tube by fingerlike projections called fimbriae attached to the end of each tube like petals of a flower. Once inside, with the help of hair-like cilia, the egg begins a 4-day journey through the fallopian tube toward the uterus. The opening within each tube is 4 inches long and more narrow than a strand of spaghetti. Fertilization of the egg usually occurs within this space. To be successful a sperm has to reach the egg within 24 hours after ovulation.
A muscular sac, shaped like an upside-down pear, about the size of your clenched fist that opens via the cervix into the vagina. It's generally tilted forward over the bladder. Hormones produced by the developing follicles in the ovaries cause the uterine lining to thicken each month, preparing for the possible implantation of a fertilized egg.
If fertilization in the fallopian tube does
The genetic material from the sperm joins that of the egg to form a zygote. The zygote begins cleavage, splitting into two cells, then 4, then 8, etc. It enters the womb on day 4, starts implanting itself in the uterine wall on day 6, and completes implantation on day 12. The mother is then considered pregnant. The uterus then houses protects and nourishes the developing baby. During pregnancy the cells of the uterine muscles stretch to 30 times their normal length to make room for the growing baby. After approximately 9 months hormones cause these muscle cells to contract forcing the baby out during birth.
If fertilization in the fallopian tube does
The inner lining of the uterus is shed during what is called the menstrual period, and begins the cycle again.
The lower part of the uterus opening into the vagina. The cervix offers a passageway from the main body of the uterus to the vagina. It secretes a mucous that helps prevent entry of sperm into the uterus. However if the woman has just ovulated, the mucous secreted by the cervix becomes thinner to allow sperm to easily enter the uterus for fertilization usually occurring in the fallopian tubes.
(BodyTeen disclaimer: Poontang is just about the only slang for vagina that BodyTeen feels comfortable broadcasting on the net. Unfortunately, it's also probably the least used. For further undoubtedly more offensive terminology please consult your peers or high school locker room.)
The vagina connects the cervix to the outside of the body. It receives the penis during sexual intercourse. It carries menstrual flow to the outside of the body. It is the final passageway through which a baby passes during birth. Its walls release a sweat that aids in lubrication during sex.
A membrane of skin partially covering the vaginal orifice. When a woman loses her virginity, or participates in strenuous exercise requiring flexibility such as horseback riding, gymnastics or dancing, the hymen is stretched and/or torn, creating a wider vaginal opening.
2 glands that secrete a natural lubrication on either side of the vaginal opening.
Simply washing with soap and water during a bath or shower is enough to avoid unpleasant vaginal odors.
A healthy vagina is self-cleaning.
Avoid feminine sprays, and douching (cleansing the vagina by using a douche bag or squeeze bottle to wash the vagina with a solution of water and vinegar or other commercial douche preparation.) Douching was more common in the past. Today we know that these solutions irritate the sensitive tissue in and around the vagina and provide no benefit to you. Douching in a way is more superstitious than practical. Just because your mother may have done it, does not mean you have to. Douching can be abusive if your parent is forcing you to do it. If this is the case, read our section on abuse for help.
A clear whitish to pale yellow nonirritating vaginal discharge is normal, especially during sexual excitement or ovulation.
Symptoms of infection include...
If you notice any one of these symptoms and you've ruled out the old tampon mistake, consult a physician immediately. Ignoring these symptoms or attempting to self-treat could be very hazardous to your health. Only medical professionals are trained to differentiate between the many different types of vaginal infections, each of which requires a unique treatment. Examples of infections include...