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14: Reproductive System - Biology

14: Reproductive System - Biology


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This chapter outlines the structures and functions of the male and female reproductive systems, explains how fertilization occurs, and discusses the role of the menstrual cycle in female reproduction. The chapter also describes causes of, and treatments for, male and female reproductive system disorders and infertility. In addition, it discusses types of contraception and their effectiveness.

  • 14.1: Case Study- Making Babies
    Alicia, 28, and Victor, 30, have been married for three years. A year ago, they decided they wanted to have a baby, and they stopped using birth control. At first, they did not pay attention to the timing of their sexual activity in relation to Alicia's menstrual cycle, but after six months passed without Alicia becoming pregnant, they decided to try to maximize their efforts.
  • 14.2: Introduction to the Reproductive System
    The reproductive system is the human organ system responsible for the production and fertilization of gametes (sperm or eggs) and, in females, the carrying of a fetus. Both male and female reproductive systems have organs called gonads that produce gametes. Besides producing gametes, the gonads also produce sex hormones.
  • 14.3: Structures of the Male Reproductive System
    The two testes are sperm- and testosterone-producing male gonads. They are contained within the scrotum, a pouch that hangs down behind the penis. The testes are filled with hundreds of tiny, tightly coiled seminiferous tubules, where sperm are produced.
  • 14.4: Functions of the Male Reproductive System
    A mature sperm cell has several structures that help it reach and penetrate an egg.
  • 14.5: Disorders of the Male Reproductive System
    Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a disorder characterized by the regular and repeated inability of a sexually mature male to obtain and maintain an erection. ED occurs when normal blood flow to the penis is disturbed, or when there are problems with the nervous control of penile arousal.
  • 14.6: Structures of the Female Reproductive System
    The female reproductive system is made up of internal and external organs that function to produce haploid female gametes called eggs (or oocytes), secrete female sex hormones (such as estrogen), and carry and give birth to a fetus.
  • 14.7: Menstrual Cycle
    The menstrual cycle refers to natural changes that occur in the ovaries and uterus each month during the reproductive years of a female.
  • 14.8: Functions of the Female Reproductive System
    At birth, a female's ovaries contain all the eggs she will ever produce, which may include a million or more eggs. The eggs don't start to mature, however, until she enters puberty and attains sexual maturity. After that, one egg typically matures each month and is released from an ovary, until she reaches menopause.
  • 14.9: Disorders of the Female Reproductive System
    Cervical cancer is one of three disorders of the female reproductive system described in detail in this concept.
  • 14.10: Infertility
    Infertility is the inability of a sexually mature adult to reproduce by natural means and is generally defined as the failure to achieve a successful pregnancy after at least one year of regular, unprotected sexual intercourse.
  • 14.11: Contraception
    Contraception, also known as birth control, is any method or device used to prevent pregnancy. Birth control methods have been used for centuries, but safe and effective methods only became available in the 20th century.
  • 14.12: Case Study Conclusion- Trying to Conceive and Chapter Summary
    In the beginning of the chapter, you learned that Alicia and Victor have been actively trying to get pregnant for a year, which, as you now know, is the time-frame necessary for infertility to be diagnosed.

Thumbnail: Movements of a human embryo of a gestational age of almost exactly 9 weeks.Häggström, Mikael (2014). "Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014". WikiJournal of Medicine 1 (2).(Public Domain).​​


Human Reproductive Biology

The fourth edition of Human Reproductive Biology—winner of a 2015 Textbook Excellence Award (Texty) from The Text and Academic Authors Association—emphasizes the biological and biomedical aspects of human reproduction, explains advances in reproductive science and discusses the choices and concerns of today. Generously illustrated in full color, the text provides current information about human reproductive anatomy and physiology. This expansive text covers the full range of topics in human reproduction, from the biology of male and female systems to conception, pregnancy, labor and birth. It goes on to cover issues in fertility and its control, population growth and family planning, induced abortion and sexually transmitted diseases. This is the ideal book for courses on human reproductive biology, with chapter introductions, sidebars on related topics, chapter summaries and suggestions for further reading.

The fourth edition of Human Reproductive Biology—winner of a 2015 Textbook Excellence Award (Texty) from The Text and Academic Authors Association—emphasizes the biological and biomedical aspects of human reproduction, explains advances in reproductive science and discusses the choices and concerns of today. Generously illustrated in full color, the text provides current information about human reproductive anatomy and physiology. This expansive text covers the full range of topics in human reproduction, from the biology of male and female systems to conception, pregnancy, labor and birth. It goes on to cover issues in fertility and its control, population growth and family planning, induced abortion and sexually transmitted diseases. This is the ideal book for courses on human reproductive biology, with chapter introductions, sidebars on related topics, chapter summaries and suggestions for further reading.


Basic Anatomy

The parts of the female reproductive tract normally include two ovaries, two uterine tubes (also called fallopian tubes ), a single pear-shaped uterus, and a single vagina. Gamete production is the responsibility of the ovaries, whereas protection and nourishment of the growing embryo and fetus before birth are functions of the uterus. The two uterine tubes, one from each ovary, provide pathways for the female gametes (eggs) to get from the ovaries to the uterus.

The portion of the reproductive tract called the vagina is between the narrow uterine cervix and the outside of the body. In female humans there is a second opening where the urethra from the urinary bladder connects to the outside of the body. The urethral opening is normally separate from, and in front of, the vagina. Both the urethra and the vagina are located between two outer folds of skin called the labia majora and two inner folds, the labia minora. The structure called the clitoris is located where the two folds of the labia minora join each other at the front. The organs of the female reproductive tract are kept in place internally by ligaments that attach the ovaries and uterus to the body wall and by the peritoneal membrane that lines the body cavity containing the intestines and other digestive organs.

The mammary glands are not part of the female reproductive tract but are important secondary reproductive organs. The mammary glands develop in the tissue underneath the skin but on top of the muscles of the chest. Both males and females start with the same tissues, but normally only females generate the correct hormonal signals to promote development of the mammary glands at puberty. The full ability of mammary glands to synthesize and secrete milk does not occur unless a woman is exposed to the hormonal changes of pregnancy.


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