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Overview of the female reproductive system

A diagram showing the ovaries, Fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix and vagina The female reproductive system is made up of the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus (womb), cervix and vagina. The outer part of the vagina is called the vulva.

Each reproductive organ has a different role.

The ovaries are two organs that contain eggs, and make the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. They're controlled by hormones made in the pituitary gland inside the brain. These hormones stimulate the ovaries to release an egg (or eggs) every month, which then makes its way down the fallopian tube, into the uterus. This is called ovulation.

The uterus is a hollow pear-shaped organ located between the bladder and the rectum. It's where an unborn baby grows and develops. If the egg is fertilised by sperm, it forms an embryo that attaches to the uterus wall. There, it develops into a fetus and, eventually, a baby.

Every month the uterus produces a thick lining on its inner wall, ready to receive a fertilised egg. If the egg isn't fertilised, then the lining is shed, leaving the body through the vagina. This is called a period.

The vagina is a flexible muscular tube that goes from the vulva to the neck of the womb, called the cervix. The cervix connects the vagina and the uterus.

Outer organs – the vulva

VulvaFemale outer reproductive organs, or genitals, are together called the vulva.

Next to the vagina are the labia minora, or inner labia or lips. They are there to protect the vagina and to provide lubrication during sex. The labia majora, or outer labia, sit outside these, and protect the clitoris and other external genitals.

The clitoris is above the vagina. This is the most sensitive part of the vulva, and it helps to provide sexual arousal.

Between the clitoris and the vagina is the urethra, a thin tube from the bladder, which you urinate (wee) from.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed September 2021.

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Page reference: 277828

Review key: HIAWB-277828