The internal organ system of female reproduction includes the ovaries , fallopian tubes, and uterus , all of which are located in the pelvis (under the abdomen).
An adult ovary weighs approximately 15 g and is joined to the lateral wall of the pelvis and uterus by ligaments , along which the arteries, veins , lymph vessels and nerves course .
The ovary can be divided into three distinct areas:
- The most developed portion is the cortex , which contains the oocytes , each of which is enclosed in a follicle. During the reproductive life of a woman it is possible to observe follicles in the cortex in various stages of development or regression.
- The medulla is located below the cortex towards the center of the ovary.
- The hilum , a kind of entrance and exit fissure through which blood vessels and nerves pass.
The ovaries can be palpated during a physical exam and can also be viewed on an ultrasound or computed tomography (CT) scan .
Their main function is to secrete steroid hormones , so called because they are all derived from cholesterol , which is their only precursor. They regulate the development and extrusion of the egg cell, a process called ovulation.
Secondly, steroid hormones are released into the bloodstream and act on various organs such as the uterus, fallopian tubes, vagina , breast , hypothalamus and pituitary gland (structures which in turn secrete hormones), the tissue fat , bone , kidney , liverand the vascular system. Many, but not all, of these distant effects are closely related to reproductive function.
The fundamental female reproductive unit is represented by the single ovarian follicle, which is a germ cell, i.e. capable of being fertilized.