Sci was handed a paper a few days ago, on the concept of evolutionary psychology (or physiology, possibly) and mate choice due to things like birth control. She thought she'd blog it. And then she realized that, to blog it successfully, she was going to have to do some MAJOR background. And then she had an idea!
(Sci and her idea, except that I've never understood why they have these pictures of people on their laptops on the floor. My back would stand exactly five minutes of that sort of thing.)
It's time for another series, y'all.
And so, without further ado: the female reproduction series.
This series is going to be broken up into a couple of section. Today's will be the basic anatomy. Then we'll be covering the female cycle in all its glory and all its hormones, and then on to the basics of fertilization and possibly pregnancy. It's gonna be a good time. Except for the fact that a lot of the hormones don't have very good names. But that's ok.
Let's do it ladies. (Pics probably NSFW, even though it's straight up anatomy, some people probably shouldn't be staring at vaginas during work hours.)
(This woman can DANCE. And you gotta love a woman with some good curves. /Beyonce worship)
First up: The ANATOMY
One of the first things you'll notice in that picture above is that the ovaries and uterus are a LOT lower than most people think they are. Ask a woman to put a hand on her uterus and most women will head for an area just below the belly button. Nope, lower. LOWER. Actual position is probably going to be just above the pubic hair line.
And now we get to the major anatomy. First you can see the globs on either side, the ovaries. This is where the real action is going to be during the monthly cycle. When eggs are released from the ovaries, they travel into the tubes just above them, the fallopian tubes. Usually an egg gets all the way down to the uterus before fertilizaton, but if it doesn't, and is fertilized and implants in the fallopian tubes, this is very bad news for everyone (though sometimes the egg can even implant in the ovary or in the abdomen, and that's REALLY bad news for everyone). So we all are rooting for the egg to get through the fallopian tubes to the uterus.
The uterus is where the baby action happens. You can see in the picture above that the uterus has two major layers to it (well, actually it has three, there is a very far outer layer called the perimetrium, that separates the uterus from the rest of the abdominal environment). The thick layers is the myometrium, which is a muscle layer made of smooth muscle, which also support a lot of blood flow. This is the layer that will stretch during pregnancy, and the smooth muscle will provide the contractions that occur during labor.
The thinner inner layer is the endometrium, a spongy glandular tissue layer which gets thickened and blood filled each month, and is shed during each menstrual cycle. During pregnancy, this endometrium will provide the implantation area for the fetus, and form the maternal half of the placenta.
Further down we have the cervix. This is a narrowing of the uterus, where it joins the top part of the vagina. Through a speculum it looks like this:
See that slit in the middle? That's the opening up toward the uterus. Yes, a baby's gotta get through that. This is why the dilation of the cervix during birth is so vitally important. Like getting a pot roast through a cheerio.
And further down we get to the vagina.
An aside on vaginal anatomy:
(Yes, yes, it has hair. Shocking, I'm sure. C'mon, we're all mammals, here.)
All right, so we'll start at the top. You can see here that the clitoris is very small, and covered in most women by the clitoral hood (which is sometimes removed during "female circumcision", which is an ethical and humanitarian issue that Sci is not going to cover today). On the sides you can see the fleshy labia major ("major lips"), and inside those, the labia minora ("Minor lips"). Within these two labia are the urethral open through which a woman urinates, and her vaginal opening, which is further back. The anus is the furthest back and is not surrounded by the vaginal labia.
A side rant: Sci recently heard that there is a plastic surgery that can be done to reduce the size of the vaginal lips and make them look more like pr0n starz. Apparently there are also surgeries you can have to make your vaginal opening smaller, and thus tighter. She cannot tell you how incredibly angry these surgeries make her. Honey, if your man insists that you need smaller vaginal lips to be attractive, or a tighter vaginal opening to be sexy, or you think you need that to be attractive to men: YOU ARE WITH THE WRONG MEN. Ain't nothing about "tightness" that Kegels can't fix, unless you require repair from significant tearing due to birth or other trauma. That is all.
Ok, so now we're through the major anatomy. And next time (with a break for weird science) it's on to the hormones and the glory of the menstrual cycle.