Understanding Female Anatomy: Reproductive & Sexual Health Education Series

Part 1: Understanding Internal Female Reproductive Anatomy

When it comes to preventing cervical cancer and other reproductive health health issues, it has been proven that education plays a key role. In a 2020 survey, women were asked to identify parts of their reproductive anatomy. Nearly 1/4 of the women misidentified the vagina, and 46% could not properly identify the cervix. Clearly, the results showed that there are many gaps in education.

In the next eight weeks, we will cover 8 important things to know about reproductive & sexual Health. Today, we’ll start by thinking about anatomy!

When we think about the female reproductive system, there are four main internal parts that are important to know about:

1. Vagina:

  • Oftentimes people use the wrong term to define the vagina. When refering to the external parts, like the clitoris or labia, the term is vulva, not vagina!
  • The vagina is shaped like collapsed tube or a deflated balloon.
  • It provides a passageway for blood and mucosal tissue during the menstrual cycle.
  • It’s the passageway for childbirth, and it leads to the uterus.
  • The vagina produces fluid daily to cleanse and lubricate itself.
  • The vagina is also used for insertion, such as with a penis, fingers, female condoms, sex toys, tampons, or menstrual cups.

“People think the vagina is a tube that’s always open, but it’s not. It’s a muscle that, when at rest, is closed”- Melanie Davis, PhD, CSC, CSE, CSE-S

2. Fallopian tubes:

  • These muscular tubes are lined with delicate hair-like structures called cilia.
  • The fallopian tubes transport the ova from the ovary to the uterus each month during cycle. The ova travels into the fallopian tube, and if sperm is present, it may get fertilized.

3. Ovaries and Follicles:

  • Each ovary is about the size and shape of an almond.
  • Follicles are fluid sacs containing around 8–10 immature eggs or oocyte.
  • During ovulation, a mature egg is released from a follicle into the fallopian tube. It typically happens about 13–15 days before the start of each period.
  • The ovaries also produce hormones, such as estrogen & progesterone, which rise and fall during a woman’s monthly cycle.

4. Cervix:

The Cervix has several different roles. In fact, there is so much that we should learn about this “(In)visible organ,” that we will talk about the cervix in more detail in a future blog!

  • The cervix produces cervical mucus to block pathogens. The rate and consistency of cervical mucus changes throughout your menstrual cycle. At the point of greatest fertility, the cervix produces a large amount of clear mucus to help promote fertilization.
  • The cervix facilitates fertilization, by helping the passage of sperm into the uterine cavity.
  • It is the portal to human life. The Cervix dilates when a woman is giving birth.

Learn more:

  • Educational video by Crash Course gives a great overview of the function of the female reproductive anatomy:
  • TEDx talk by Cassie Dionne, ‘It’s time to Talk about Women’s Health’