Physical Fitness Well-Being and Care Female Genitals Part 2

About physical fitness, medical information, trivia, anatomy, well-being and care of female genitals including the vagina, uterus and more.

TAKING A PHYSICAL--HEAD TO TOE

GENITALS: FEMALE

After the release of its egg into the Fallopian tube, the follicle becomes a new structure, called the corpus luteum. If the egg which it has released fails to be fertilized, the corpus luteum degenerates in about 14 days. If fertilization takes place, the corpus luteum lives through most of the pregnancy.

At the same time that the egg is being released from the follicle, the lining of the uterus thickens and softens. Blood vessels and small glands that produce nutrient materials develop within this new lining. The lining is called the endometrium.

If fertilization occurs, the endometrium continues to develop, preparing the uterus to receive and nurture what will become an embryo. If the egg is not fertilized, the development of the endometrium stops. Blood vessels in the area constrict, starving the endometrium of oxygen and nutrients.

The woman's body then begins to discharge the now detached endometrium. This is the process of menstruation, which takes, on an average, 3 to 5 days to complete. It should be noted, however, that this period can differ widely.

The "cramps" that are sometimes felt during menstruation are caused by contractions of the muscular walls of the uterus as the endometrium falls away.

The monthly menstrual cycles normally cease upon two occasions: menopause and pregnancy. Somewhere between the ages of 45 and 55, certain hormones stop being produced and ovulation ceases. This process is known as menopause. Sexual interest, however, continues after menopause.

Pregnancy occurs when a sperm connects with a mature egg in the woman's body. When the man ejaculates into the woman's vagina, a few of his sperm may travel into her Fallopian tubes. The head of the sperm enters the egg, whereupon the hereditary materials of both germ cells combine.

The egg then begins a long period of dividing, first into a two-cell stage, then four, then eight, and so on. As the process continues, it forms a small ball of cells, which moves into the uterus.

The cells of this ball, now within the uterus, continue to develop. This ball is the embryo. The cells within the embryo slowly begin to specialize; that is, some become muscle cells, some nerve cells, and so on.

Between the sixth and eighth weeks, the embryo develops enough to be recognized as a human being.

As the embryo grows within the uterus, nutrients are carried to and from the mother's body through the umbilical cord, which also provides a channel for the embryo's wastes.

During the process of birth, the placenta becomes detached from the woman's uterus. Within days, the woman's genitals return to their normal, nonpregnant state.

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