R E P R O D U C
T I O N:
(Iguanas do it.)
Every living thing has the ability to reproduce, which just means
"start a new generation of living things like themselves." Every
living thing from iguanas to bats to spiders to popcorn plants has reproductive
organs (sex organs) so they can:
"Continue the species" by..... making
Males have their sex organs (penis,
testicles and epididymis) on the outside
of their bodies.
Females have their sex organs (vagina, uterus, fallopian tubes,
ovaries) on the inside.
The Female Side of the Story
The vagina is like a pouch tucked
up inside of a female. Most of the time, the vagina is like a collapsed
balloon with the inside walls touching each other. But the vagina can stretch
so that a tampon can fit inside during menstruation
or a penis can fit inside
during sexual intercourse. It can even expand enough so that a whole baby
can pass through it during childbirth and then go right back to its original
size and shape!
At the top of the vagina
is a firm, round knob called the cervix, the
"doorway" into the uterus (womb).
The cervix and vagina walls have glands that make small amounts of fluids.
When the woman is sexually excited, these glands make more fluids. What
do the fluids do?
- Make it easier to insert the penis during sexual intercourse.
- Wash away old dead cells the vagina continuously sheds.
Girls start to produce a regular vaginal discharge about a year before
they get their periods. This discharge can be whitish or clear, and comes
out almost daily. The discharge is heavier for some people than others,
and a woman may decide to use a panty liner to catch it. As the discharge
comes out, it washes down the walls of the vagina.
NOTE: The vagina is a "self-cleansing" organ. That means there
is absolutely no need for special "feminine hygiene products!"
These products are:
- a total waste of money. You don't need to buy them.
- a waste of energy to manufacture. Most come in fancy spray cans.
- a bad deal for the environment. Cans are not biodegradable!
- unhealthy for you! Recent studies suggest that products which
spray powder up into the vagina can increase risk of cervical cancer!
Should you wash your vagina? It's good idea to wash the vaginal
area during regular baths or showers. Use a little bit of soap and lots
of water. (Soap left unrinsed in the vagina can cause irritations.) You
might want to do this more frequently during your period. For the most
part, though, your vagina will keep itself clean.
Ovaries and the Ova
The ovaries contain a female's ova ("eggs"). Unlike
males, whose bodies keep making new supplies of sperm,
a female is born with all the eggs she will ever have. There are
hundred of thousands of them in the ovaries, but only 800-900 ever fully
ripen. (When an egg ripens it's about the size of a grain of beach sand.)
The egg ripening process begins during puberty when the brain signals the
pituitary gland to start making hormones. (Our bodies make
hundreds of different hormones, and each one acts on particular organs
so they develop or behave in certain ways. These hormones control ovulation
(the releasing of ripened eggs) and menstruation.
The Fallopian Tubes
Each girl is born with not one but TWO Fallopian tubes that connect
to the uterus. One is on the right side and one is on left. These tubes
are no thicker than a strand of spaghetti. A ripened egg is even smaller
(which is a good thing since each month an egg must travel through one
of these narrow tubes on its way to the uterus). The muscles of the inside
walls of the Fallopian tubes are lined with tiny hairs, called cilia.
These muscles can contract and release, causing the cilia to wave back
and forth. It is this back-and-forth movement that helps the ripe ovum
(a single egg) travel down the length of the tube into the uterus.
Some girls and women who are very tuned into their bodies,
can actually feel this while this is happening!
The Uterus (womb)
Like the rest of your body, the uterus changes during puberty. It grows
larger, but even in a grown woman it is only about the size of a clenched
fist. After ovulation,
hormones cause the lining of the uterus to grow thick with new blood vessels
and spongy, cushioning tissues. This lining contains nourishing substances
that will help grow a baby from a fertilized egg (one that been united with a
sperm). Most of the time,
fertilization does not occur and the lining isn't needed. So the spongy
tissue and blood (not more than a couple of tablespoonsful) slide off the
wall of the uterus. Then it passes through the opening of the cervix, into
the vagina and out of the girl's body. This could take from a few days
to a week. That's what a menstrual period is. Period
Cramps. Some women get menstrual cramps. A woman's uterus is
a muscle. Just as our leg muscles sometimes cramp up during exercise, the
uterus can cramp up as it works to push out the uterine lining. Exercise
and stretching can help to alleviate cramps. If you have problems with
cramps, you might try taking a warm bath to relax the muscles. Eliminating
caffeine and cold food helps for some people. NOTE: Getting your period
is healthy. When a woman gets her period, it doesn't mean she is sick or
hurt. She can continue doing whatever she enjoys on the other days of the
month. Overexercising or severe dieting can make a woman's period stop.
This is not healthy.
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