The female sexual organs
As a girl’s body develops into a woman’s body it usually changes quite significantly. Some of the sex organs, for example primary sex organs such as the uterus and ovaries, are present from birth but change over time. Others develop over time, for example the breasts.
The function of the female sex organs
It is hardly surprising: the internal and external sex organs play an important role in reproduction, pleasure and hormone regulation.
A brief description of the female sex organs
The female sex organs can be divided as follows:
External sex organs:
The internal sex organs:
- Fallopian tubes
The function of the vulva
The vulva is the term used to describe a woman’s external sexual organs – this includes the labia minora and labia majora, the clitoris and the vagina. The border between the inner and outer genitals is the hymen.
Good to know: Every woman’s vulva looks different. We are all unique!
The labia majora
The labia majora extend from the mons veneris to the perineum. They are made of fatty tissue, contain a lot of nerves, and have a lot of blood flow, which is why they are so sensitive to touch.
Good to know: During sexual arousal, the outer labia swell.
The labia minora
Not only the labia majora but also the labia minora are very sensitive. The labia minora lie between the labia majora. They can look somewhat ruffled and can vary greatly in size and color. It is also possible (and quite natural) for the labia minora to protrude beyond the labia majora.
The hymen - also called the vaginal membrane or hymen
Many myths surround the so-called hymen. The hymen is a thin flap of skin that surrounds the vaginal entrance from the inside. It does not close it completely because otherwise, the blood would not be able to flow during the period. It actually serves as protection. Over time, this protective function is taken over by a whitish discharge (fluor vaginalis). The hymen then becomes thinner and thinner.
Good to know: The hymen can look very different depending on the woman, have an opening of varying size or not be there at all.
The vagina is one of the internal sexual organs. It is about ten to twelve centimeters long, has a tubular shape, and connects to the uterus. At its upper edge is the cervix, which protrudes into the vagina in the shape of a cone. During menstruation, blood passes from the uterus through the vagina to the outside. During birth, the vagina is the birth canal. The vagina has a ‘wrinkled’ structure and is extremely stretchy. The lower part of the vagina is very sensitive to touch. There is an acidic environment in the vagina, which is meant to provide protection against pathogens.
Important: A healthy vaginal flora is good protection against infections. Nevertheless, only the consistent use of a condom, dental dam, etc. protects against sexually transmitted diseases.
The visible part of the clitoris, the clitoral glans, is located where the labia minora meet. The small glans is covered by the clitoral hood. A very large part of the clitoris extends under the labia. The entire clitoris is very sensitive, has erectile tissue and many nerves. During sexual arousal, it enlarges and swells. The clitoris is certainly one of the most misunderstood parts of the female sexual organs.
The function of the clitoris
Its sole function is to provide intense feelings of pleasure and for this, it is equipped with 8000 nerve endings. That’s twice as many as in a penis.
The anatomy and structure of the clitoris
In most anatomical illustrations, only the small (externally visible) part of the clitoris is shown. However, the clitoris is a bit like an iceberg where you only see the small tip and the rest is hidden. The clitoris is actually an extraordinary and large pleasure organ that extends from the top of the labia to the vaginal opening.
The nerves of the clitoris
The clitoris is very sensitive to touch and swells with sexual arousal – actually very similar to the male equivalent, the penis. However, it is equipped with far more nerve endings. The clitoris is one of the most sensitive regions of the body.
The uterus is often used as a generic term for the entire reproductive system of the woman. However, the terms ‘uterus’ or ‘womb’ actually describes only the uterine cavity (the upper two-thirds) and the cervix (the lower third). The uterus lies between the bladder and the rectum. At the upper end, the two fallopian tubes open into the uterus. The exit is formed by the cervix and the cervical canal, which lead into the vagina. You can also think of the uterus as an upside-down pear. It has an extraordinarily strong layer of muscle and is very stretchy. Inside, the uterus is lined with a very glandular mucous membrane, also called the ‘endometrium’. This mucous membrane consists of several layers. The functional layer is built up in a cyclical pattern and is shed in the form of menstruation if no fertilized egg implants. The basal layer lines the uterus continuously and is not shed with menstruation.
Good to know: The uterus of a sexually mature woman is on average between seven and nine centimeters long and weighs between 80 and 120 grams. During pregnancy, the uterus weighs more than ten times as much.
The function and task of the uterus
The functions of the uterus include the reception of the fertilized egg, the accommodation and supply of oxygen and nutrients during the embryonic, fetal and prenatal phases of development, and the function of the expulsion organ at birth, which brings the baby into the world by muscle contractions through the birth canal to the outside.
The function of the cervix
The cervix is the connection between the vagina and the uterus. The cervix is divided into the outer cervix, the part that protrudes into the vagina, and the mucus-forming cervical canal that opens into the uterine cavity. The cervix is responsible for the formation of cervical mucus. The cervical mucus forms a barrier against sperm and rising germs on the infertile days in the cycle. Around ovulation, when a woman is fertile, the cervical mucus becomes clear and spinnable. In the event of fertilization, the sperm pass through the cervix into the uterus and into the fallopian tubes. During menstruation, blood from the uterus enters the vagina via the cervix.
The function of the uterine cavity
The uterine cavity is part of the uterus and is the part of the organ where pregnancy is carried to term and the fetus is hosted. The uterine cavity is connected to the fallopian tubes, which are responsible for transporting the egg.
The uterus during pregnancy
As the baby grows in the womb, the uterus naturally expands too. Towards the end of pregnancy, it is almost as big as two footballs. This means it is about 20 times as big as it was at the beginning of the pregnancy. During birth, the uterus contracts, which is known as ‘labor pain’. In the last few weeks of pregnancy, the uterus starts to do ‘test runs’ and contract from time to time. Some women don’t really notice this, others describe it as mild period pain. Labor pain is actually nothing more than strong contractions of the uterus. They cause the cervix to shorten and open.
Good to know: Every woman experiences these contractions in a different way.
The ovaries are also part of the female reproductive system. They lie on either side of the uterus and can be palpated with two fingers. The ovaries are oval-shaped and are connected to the fallopian tube, into which a mature egg is released once per cycle. The ovaries also produce and secrete various hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone. The production of these hormones is controlled by the pituitary gland. To do this, it secretes the messenger substances FSH and LH. Testosterone is also produced in small quantities by the ovaries.
The position of the ovaries
The function of the fallopian tubes
The two ovaries are located on either side of the uterus and can be palpated with two fingers. When examining the fallopian tubes and ovaries, one hand is used to palpate from the inside, while the other hand is used to palpate from the outside.
After ovulation, the fallopian tubes transport the egg to the uterus by facilitating rhythmic movements. The egg is considered capable of fertilization for about 12 hours after ovulation. Fertilization occurs when the egg and sperm meet during this period. Fertilization usually takes place in the fallopian tube. Another important task of the fallopian tube is to transport the fertilized egg to the uterus. This process takes about three to five days. The first cell divisions already occur inside the fallopian tube.