Sexual Anatomy In Women (3)

 

 

The Vagina

The vagina begins on the outside at the vaginal opening and ends inside at the cervix or neck of the womb. The vagina varies in size from woman to woman, but is usually three to five inches long. It is shaped like a flattened tube, the walls of which touch each other.

The walls of the vagina are not smooth - they contain folds or wrinkles throughout. You can see pictures of the vagina here. The vagina has enormous powers of expansion and contraction.

For example, it widens during the birth process, and during sex - see lots of lovemaking positions - it can adjust to any size of penis.

During sexual excitement the vagina responds almost immediately to  pleasurable stimulation. In a matter of a few seconds droplets of fluid appear along its walls. As sexual excitement continues, these beads or droplets join together and cover the sides of the vagina completely. When a woman is sexually excited blood vessels in the walls of the vagina quickly become swollen with blood.

This engorgement continues, and as it does so the blood vessels press against the tissue in that area, forcing natural lubrication fluid through the walls of the vagina. The fluid is not only a sign of sexual arousal but serves as a lubricant for intercourse if that is to follow, without which the woman would find penetration painful.

The vagina is a self-cleansing part of the body, and does not require special attention to be kept clean. The internal walls of the vagina itself around the G spot have a great supply of nerves and are sensitive.

The innermost two-thirds of the vagina are more responsive to pressure than to touch, whereas the outer one-third, especially around the vaginal opening, has many more nerves and is much more sensitive to touch. This is the location of the G spot.

The Cervix

The cervix is the narrow part of the uterus or womb which dips to the back end of the vagina. In that area the cervix has an opening called the cervical os. This opening is very small, like the end of a small straw or stirrer, and feels like the tip of a nose or a dimpled chin.

Women who use and IUD for birth control have the threads of the lUD hanging down through the cervix into the vagina. The cervix has the ability to expand and contract to allow a baby to pass through it during birth. Menstrual fluid also passes through the cervix during the menstrual cycle, and the mucus thickness is used by those who practice natural family planning methods as an indicator of safe or unsafe times to have intercourse (this is called the Billings or cervical mucus method).

The Uterus

In a woman who is not pregnant, the uterus or womb is about the size of a closed fist (three to four inches long and three inches wide) and is shaped like an upside-down pear. Fully expanded in pregnancy it measures 11-12 inches in length. The narrow end or neck of the uterus is the cervix, which dips into the back of the vagina, and ends with the cervical opening or os. The upper portion of the uterus is its larger part, and it is here that the baby grows and is nourished during pregnancy.

The uterus is very thick walled and unusually elastic, as it has to expand and hold a growing baby, and then return to approximately its usual size after the birth of the baby.

The uterus contains three special layered linings of tissue and muscle. The innermost layer of very special tissue is the endometrium. After puberty, this lines the main body of the uterus ready to provide a nesting place with immediate nutrition for a fertilized ovum at the earliest moments of pregnancy.

If a woman is not pregnant this lining is not needed, so it separates from the uterus and leaves the body as the menstrual flow or period. This process is repeated monthly. Immediately, a new lining begins to appear as a replacement in the event a pregnancy occurs during the woman's next cycle. Except during pregnancy this rather regular series of events continues uninterrupted from puberty until menopause. The second, middle, lining of the uterus is the powerful muscular wall.

The uterus is located in such a way that there is plenty of room for it to expand upward as well as sideways during pregnancy. The bone structure of the area provides a kind of cradle for the expanded uterus. layer called the myometrium, which gives the uterus its great strength and elasticity.

This layer contracts during the birth process and forces the baby out of the uterus into the vagina. The third layer of the uterus is the perimetrium, which contains the other two layers, the myometrium and the endometrium.

The uterus is held in position within the pelvis by several sets of ligaments (the broad ligament, the round ligament, and the uterosacral ligament).

During sexual excitation, the uterus lifts itself, increases in size, and remains enlarged until orgasm or until stimulation stops. Orgasm results in a rapid return of the uterus to its usual size. The reason why the uterus expands and lifts is that much more blood flows into its walls during sexual excitement.

It has been suggested that during orgasm the uterus sucks up semen ejaculated by the man during sexual intercourse to help the sperm travel up to the Fallopian tubes. The only movements of the uterus during the sex response cycle are a lifting caused by the excitation and contractions due to orgasm. There is no sucking action.

During and after menopause, the reduced supply of estrogen causes the uterus to decrease in size. Also, it no longer enlarges in response to sexual stimulation as it once did. This, too, is a result of the lower estrogen level in the woman's body. However, the feelings of sexual excitation, orgasm and fulfillment are not interfered with and a woman can enjoy intercourse during and after her menopause as much as she did before.

Fallopian Tubes

There are two Fallopian tubes, about four inches long, attached to each side of the upper portion of the uterus. Fallopian tubes are named after Gregorio Fallopio, the sixteenth century anatomist who discovered them. They are quite narrow (one to two millimeters) and are the passageways that allow an ovum or egg from the ovary to reach the uterus or womb.

The Fallopian tubes are not attached to the ovaries but surround and envelop them at their upper end. The upper ends of the Fallopian tubes are open and look like the head of a trumpet with a fringed rim (the fringes are called "fimbriae").

When it is released from the ovary, the ovum or egg is drawn or swept into the opening of the Fallopian tube by natural suction and begins its movement downward toward the uterus, which is at the other end of the tube. The walls of the Fallopian tubes are filled with hair like structures called cilia, which contract slightly along with the tubes, and assist the ovum in moving toward the uterus.

It is interesting to note that any sperm in the Fallopian tubes must move or swim against the downward tide or current of the cilia. Therefore, only the most mature, developed sperm can make the journey. This is the body's way of ensuring that if fertilization does take place, there is a good chance that a healthy pregnancy will occur.

Fertilization is when a sperm and ovum meet and connect usually occurs in the upper portion of a Fallopian tube. Occasionally Fallopian tubes get blocked; sometimes a fertilized ovum gets stuck in a Fallopian tube and develops there. This is called an ectopic pregnancy.

Ovaries

Women have two ovaries, one on each side of the upper part of the uterus. They are located well below each side of the navel or belly button, and are not directly connected to the uterus or Fallopian tubes. They are held in place by ovarian ligaments. The ovaries are almond shaped, about 1.5 inches long, 0.75 inch thick and 1 inch wide. The ovaries have two important functions: through the process called ovulation they release ova or eggs, which can be fertilized by sperm from a man; they also produce female hormones called estrogen and progesterone. Estrogen is crucial for sexual development, progesterone is very important for pregnancy. These hormones are passed directly from the ovaries into the bloodstream.

A woman is born with approximately 200,000 ova or eggs in each ovary (ovum is Latin for "egg"; ova is plural). Between 300 and 500 of these ova will be released during a woman's reproductive years. Each ovum is contained in a follicle, a cavity in which the immature egg can rest.

When the egg matures, it rises though the cavity and is released from the ovary into the Fallopian tube on that side. Ripening of the follicles so that they can release ova starts at puberty, when one follicle from either the right ovary or the left releases an ovum into a Fallopian tube.

This process is called ovulation, and occurs approximately once every four weeks from puberty to menopause. During the time a woman is pregnant, ovulation does not occur; it resumes its regular pattern after the birth of the baby.

Ovulation, the releasing of an egg each month, generally begins between the ages of ten and 14; the majority of young girls start to ovulate at 12, 13 or 14. It often happens that a young girl begins to menstruate, but doesn't ovulate for several cycles. These are called anovulatory cycles, and are quite normal in girls at puberty.

Ovulation usually stops sometime between the ages of 45 and 50, when menopause occurs. There are women who stop ovulating earlier than 45 and some who continue ovulating after 50 - these are normal variations and they do not indicate a problem or disease, a sexual dysfunction, or any significance to a couple's choice of best sexual positions.

Suffice it to say that women who have difficulty getting pregnant may well seek out the help of artificial insemination, or egg donation, or in vitro fertilization. Such aids to human reproduction have transformed the lives of couples who would otherwise have remained childless.

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