Every woman is born with an organ essential to fertility - her ovaries. We all hear about these two organs located deep inside our bodies, but how much do we actually know about them? This article will give you a brief overview of what your ovaries actually do for you and how you can keep them healthy and happy.
What are the Ovaries?
The ovaries are an essential part of a woman's reproductive system. Together with the uterus, fallopian tubes, and vagina, the ovaries allow a woman to become pregnant. They are also responsible for giving a woman all of her secondary sex characteristics - in short, your ovaries are what make you look like a woman.
Your ovaries are two almond-shaped glands that are located just underneath the ends of your fallopian tubes. You have one ovary on either side of your uterus. Your ovaries are very small - in fact they are only about one and a half inches long - and are pinkish-grey in color. Each ovary is connected to the end of your fallopian tubes, connecting them with the rest of your reproductive system.
Ovaries and Ovulation
When you think about your ovaries, you probably immediately associate them with ovulation and reproduction. Well, you are right to make this connection. Your ovaries actually store and release your eggs (also called ova). When fertilized, these eggs develop into your baby. When you are born your ovaries actually contain about one million follicles, each housing an unripened, immature egg. By the time you begin menstruating, you have about 400 000 follicles available for use.
Every month, either your left or right ovary releases an egg to be fertilized. This process is called ovulation, and it is actually part of your menstrual cycle. About 2 weeks before you are due to menstruate, 10 to 20 eggs will begin to ripen inside their follicles. Only one of these eggs will actually be released from their follicle and leave the ovary. It will then begin to travel down the fallopian tube towards the uterus. If fertilized, this egg will develop into an embryo.
Hormones and Your Ovaries
Your ovaries don't just store your eggs, they are also responsible for releasing them. Throughout your cycle, your ovaries release female sex hormones including: