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 babies.

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

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.




Interested in learning about Birth Control Options?

Interested in learning about Sexually Transmitted Diseases?



Images © 1997 Planned Parenthood, Used by Permission.

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