What do you mean by the human reproductive system?

The biological process through which parents produce new children is called reproduction. A reproductive system is a group of internal and external organs that collaborate to allow males and females to reproduce. Many experts believe that the reproductive system is one of the most important systems in the body due to its crucial function in the survival of the species. Among the body's basic systems, the reproductive tract is the one that differs the most between sexes, and it is also the only one that does not operate until puberty.

Overall functions of the human reproductive system

The overall functions of the human reproductive system are:

  • To produce egg and sperm cells.
  • To nurture the developing offspring.
  • To produce hormones.

The female reproductive system

Internal organs and exterior structures make up the female reproductive system. Its purpose is to allow the species to reproduce. This system goes through sexual maturation to fulfill its part in the process of pregnancy and birth.  The female reproductive system is divided into two parts, they are external structure and internal structure.

External structure

Vulva:The vulva is a reproductive tract, is the term given to the female external structure; they include:

(a) Labia major: The labia majora encloses and protects the external reproductive organs. Hair grows on the labia majora skin, which also contains perspiration and oil-secreting glands.

(b) Labia minora : The labia minora can come in a variety of sizes and shapes. They are positioned precisely inside the labia majora and surround the vaginal and urethral openings.

(c) Bartholin’s glands: These glands produce a fluid (mucus) secretion and are situated on each side of the vaginal opening.

(d) Clitoris : The clitoris is a tiny penis-like structure that is found beneath the prepuce. Clitoris says the organ made up of nerves, blood vessels, and erectile tissue is extremely sensitive. The urethral entrance is right beneath the clitoris.

Internal structure

The internal reproductive organs include:

(a) Vagina: The vaginal canal connects the cervix to the outside of the body. It is also known as the birth canal. It's between the rectum and the urine bladder.

(b) Uterus (womb): The uterus is a hollow, pear-shaped organ that houses a developing fetus. The uterus is separated into two sections: the cervix (the lower segment of the uterus that opens into the vaginal canal) and the corpus (the main body of the uterus). The corpus can easily be expanded to meet the needs of a child's development. A channel in the cervix allows sperm to enter and menstrual blood to exit.

(c) Ovaries: The ovaries are two tiny, oval-shaped glands located on either side of the uterus. The ovaries are where eggs are produced (oogenesis). The ovaries are located slightly inferior to the pelvic inlet, next to the lateral pelvic wall.

(d) Fallopian tubes: The ova (egg cells) travel from the ovaries to the uterus via these tiny tubes that connect to the uterus's upper part. In most situations, an egg is fertilized in the fallopian tubes by a sperm. The fertilized egg subsequently enters the uterus and adheres to the uterine lining.

The figure represents the structure of female reproductive system.
CC BY 3.0 | Image Credits: https://commons.wikimedia.org | Bruce Blaus

The male reproductive system

A man's reproductive and urinary systems are made up of a group of organs called the male reproductive system (genitourinary system). These organs play an important function in producing, transporting sperm and semen, and they discharge sperm into the female reproductive tract. The male reproductive organs are classified into two categories, they are external structure and internal structure.

External genital organs

(a) Penis: The penis is the organ through which sperm is introduced into the female reproductive tract. It contains spongy tissue that becomes turgid and erect when filled with blood. They have three parts: the root, body or shaft, and the glans (glans penis).

(b) Scrotum: The scrotum is a loose, pouch-like sac of skin that hangs behind the penis. It includes the testicles as well as a number of nerves and blood vessels. The testis, which works as a climate control system, is protected by the scrotum. For healthy sperm growth, the testes must be kept at a temperature somewhat lower than the body temperature.

Internal genital organs

(a) Testis: The testes are the two oval-shaped male organs that produce sperm and testosterone hormone. Each testis is made up of tightly coiled structures called seminiferous tubules.

(b) Epididymis: It is a tightly coiled tube against the testicles, it acts as a maturation and storage region of the sperm.

(c) Vas deferens: Vas deferens is a thin tube that starts from the epididymis to the urethra in the penis. It helps to transport the sperm from the epididymis in anticipation of ejaculation.

The images show the structure of male reproductive system.
CC BY-SA 4.0| Image Credits: https://commons.wikimedia.org | Wumingbai

What is meant by reproductive system disorders?

Environmental pollution and life changes can cause disorders and diseases that harm both the female and male reproductive systems. These issues can arise at any age, including birth abnormalities, conceiving complications, adolescence, developmental disorders, and the menstrual cycle. Some reproductive system infections for the male and female, are:

(i) Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)

The inflammation of the female reproductive organs is termed pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). It usually happens when bacteria from the vaginal area move to the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries.

Symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease

The symptoms of pelvic inflammatory disease are:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Abnormal vaginal discharge
  • Pain during sexual contact
  • Abnormal uterine bleeding

(ii) Endometriosis

The presence of endometrial tissue outside the uterus is called endometriosis. Endometriosis affects the ovaries, fallopian tubes, and the tissue lining of the pelvic.


The symptoms include:

  • Painful periods
  • Pain in intercourse
  • Excessive bleeding
  • Infertility

(iii) Epididymitis

Epididymitis is an inflammation of the coiled tube that stores and transports sperm at the back of the testicle. Epididymitis can affect men of any age. The most common cause of epididymitis is a bacterial infection, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia, which are sexually transmitted infections (STIs).


The symptoms include:

  • Discharge from the penis
  • An inflammation and color change in the scrotum
  • Blood in the semen

(iv) Sexually transmitted disease (STD)

STDs, commonly known as sexually transmitted diseases (STIs), are infections spread through sexual contact. The most prevalent types of contact are vaginal, oral, and anal intercourse. They can, however, be transmitted via other forms of intimate physical contact. This is due to the fact that some STDs, such as gonorrhea, herpes, and human papillomavirus (HPV), are transmitted by skin-to-skin contact.


The symptoms include:

  • Rashes
  • Unusual discharge
  • Pain
  • Vaginal inflammation

(v) Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a sexually transmitted disease that is very frequent. Chlamydia trachomatis is the bacteria that causes it. Both men and women can be infected. Chlamydia can infect a woman's cervix, rectum, or throat. Chlamydia can be contracted in the penis, the rectum, or the throat in men.


The symptoms include:

  • Abnormal discharge from vagina and penis
  • A burning sensation when urinating
  • Pain during intercourse

(vi) Gynecologic Cancer

Gynecologic cancer refers to any cancer that develops in a woman's reproductive organs. The five major types of cancer that affect a woman's reproductive organs are cervical, ovarian, uterine, vaginal, and vulvar cancers. The sixth kind of gynecologic cancer is fallopian tube cancer, which is extremely rare.


The symptoms include:

  • Itching of the vulva
  • Bloating
  • Pelvic pain
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding

(vii)Testicular cancer

The testicles are placed inside the scrotum, a loose sack of skin below the penis, where testicular cancer originates.


The symptoms include:

  • An enlargement either the testicles
  • Back pain
  • A feeling of heaviness in the scrotum

Context and Applications

This topic is significant in the professional exams for both undergraduate and graduate courses, especially for

  • Bachelors of Science in Biology
  • Bachelors of Science in Human Physiology
  • Bachelors of Medicine

Practice Problems

Question 1: Sperm production begins in the ____________.

  1. Seminiferous tubules
  2. Vas deferens
  3. Epididymis
  4. Ejaculatory duct

Answer: Option 1 is correct.

Explanation: Spermatogenesis takes place in the seminiferous tubules, where germ cells mature into spermatozoa near Sertoli cells.

Question 2: The external genitals of the female is called _________.

  1. Labia
  2. Vulva
  3. Mons pubis
  4. Clitoris

Answer: Option 2 is correct.

The vulva is the outer layer of the female genitals. The vulva is the vaginal canal's entrance.

Question 3: The average menstrual cycle is _______.

  1. 14 days
  2. 20 days
  3. 15 days
  4. 18 days

Answer: Option 4 is correct.

The average menstrual cycle is 18 days long.

Question 4: The hormone that works with estrogen to prepare the endometrium for implantation of a fertilized egg is __________.

  1. LH
  2. FSH
  3. Progesterone
  4. ADH

Answer: Option 3 is correct.

Progesterone is an endogenous steroid and progestogen sex hormone that regulates the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and embryogenesis in humans.

Question 5: The cell produced after fertilization is called a __________.

  1. Gamete
  2. Embryo
  3. Zygote
  4. Fetus

Answer: Option 3 is correct.

Explanation: A zygote is the result of the union of a sperm cell and an egg cell, also called a fertilized ovum or fertilized egg.

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