Ovaries - Organs of Procreation, Structure and Diseases
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Ovaries: The Organs of Procreation

Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi profile Authored by Dr.Surya Rao Poodipeddi on 21 Apr 2014 - 11:47.

Ovaries are part of the female reproductive organs which are located in the pelvic cavity. They are two in number one on either side of the uterus in the lower abdomen in a fold of the broad ligament beside the uterus. They are attached to the uterus with the help of an ovarian ligament and to the body wall with a suspensory ligament of the ovary. The part of the broad ligament of the uterus that covers the ovary is known as the mesovarium. They are attached to the uterus with an ovarian ligament.

Each ovary is normally firm, smooth and looks like an almond both in size and shape and black in color.  The ovary has two extremities – the part of the ovary which attaches to the fallopian tubes is called the tubal extremity and the other end which bends downwards and is attached to the uterus is called the uterine extremity.

The two ovaries take turns to release eggs each month.  But in case one ovary is non-function, the other one takes care to release the eggs. Without them or with them, when they are nonfunctional, procreation ceases. Without a functional ovary ovulation is not possible and so reproduction cannot take place.

Structure of ovaries:

Fertilization process: The process of fertilization occurs when an ovum and a sperm meet. The ovum or otherwise called egg is released once in a month. This process of releasing an egg is called ovulation. The egg is released from a small cavity called follicle on the surface of the ovary.  Ovulation is brought on by the gonadotrophic hormones namely, follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH). The fully grown ovarian follicle also releases the hormones Estrogen and Progesterone.

The term ovulation denotes breaking of a small cavity called follicle and releasing an egg. This as we said earlier is caused by the action of cyclic ovarian and pituitary hormones. The term ovulation needs a bit of understanding. Every woman who reaches menarche at her 13th to 15th year of age has cyclic periods once every month which lasts for 3 to 5 days. Taking the first day of the period as day one a woman normally has ovulation on the 14th day starting from day one.

Ovulation or release of the ovum takes place on the 14th day. This phase may cause slight pain around the ovulating ovary. If one amongst the millions of sperms happen to meet the egg, fertilization takes place and pregnancy begins. If it doesn’t, then it ends up as a normal menstrual flow (bleeding).

The follicle stimulating hormone is produced by the pituitary gland and is responsible for stimulating the growth and aging of the follicles in the ovary called graffian follicles. This hormone also helps in the making of sperms in the male and the process is called spermatogenesis.

The pituitary gland also produces the latinizing hormone. This hormone stimulates the secretion of testosterone in the male. This combined with the follicle stimulating hormone stimulates the testes in the male to produce sperm. In women the latinizing hormone with the help of follicle stimulating hormone stimulates the follicles to secrete estrogen the female sex hormone.

Estrogen is one of a group of hormonal steroid compounds which aids in the development of secondary female sex character like breast development. Human estrogen is produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands, testes and both the fetus and the placenta in the mother.

This hormone is essential to prepare the wall of the uterus for fertilization, implantation and nutrition of the early embryo after each menstrual period. Estrogen is an important component used in several drugs used as contraceptives; inhibit production of breast milk, treatment of post-menopausal breast cancer and prostate cancer (in the males). It is also used in the treatment of brittle bones called osteoporosis and in the prevention of miscarriage. Progesterone is a hormone used to treat various menstrual disorders and sterility.

The ovaries play a prominent role in the life of a woman in determining her moods, libido and general health. They transform a girl into womanhood. They are responsible in the regulation of menstrual period starting from the first cycle around 14th year called menarche till cessation of periods called menopause.

Conditions of the ovary: Cancer is a serious threat to the ovaries. Early cancer of the ovaries is always a silent process and one cannot easily reach it during pelvic examination. Once cancer is detected in the ovary it is almost too late. Though cancer of the ovary can occur at any time, it usually peaks around 50 to 60 years of age. Statistically only one woman out of every one hundred may die out of cancer in the ovary.

The commonest condition affecting a woman due to problems in the ovary is the post-menopausal syndrome where several changes occur in the moods and functioning of the hormones.

Ovarian cyst is another condition which affects the ovaries. If the cyst gets twisted in a condition called twisted ovarian cyst it may lead to life threatening situation unless promptly handled through surgery.

Inflammatory disease of the ovaries is termed as Oophuritis. This is caused due to bacterial infection and needs prompt and appropriate antibiotic coverage.

The ovaries are the corner stone of reproduction, which releases an egg once every month with an expectation that a sperm may meet it for fertilization to occur. The cycle continues months after months until on one fine day a sperm meets the egg and pregnancy results and the menstrual cycle ceases till pregnancy is completed. There are instances when there is no pregnancy in the life of a woman even if the ovary religiously releases the egg. There are several causes and reasons for this unfortunate situation where pregnancy is hindered and has to be addressed based case by case investigation.

*Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. The content is for educational purposes only. Please contact your doctor for any health care issues.