Figure 12.1 The female reproductive system
Figure 12.1 The female reproductive system organs, the muscular floor or diaphragm of the pelvis, certain fibrous ligaments, and by folds of peritoneum. Among the supporting ligaments are two double-layered broad ligaments, each of which contains a uterine tube along its upper free border and a round ligament. Two ligaments at each side of the cervix are also important in maintaining the position of the uterus.
The triangular cavity of the uterus is remarkably flat and small in comparison with the size of the organ, except during pregnancy. The function of the uterus is to protect and nourish the embryo and foetus. At term, its thick muscular walls contract powerfully to expel the infant through the vagina.
The vagina has a mucous membrane comprised of stratified squamous epithelium. This has longitudinal ridges, known as the columns of the vagina, in the midline of both the anterior and posterior walls. Folds or rugae extend from them to each side. The furrows between the rugae are more marked on the posterior wall and become especially pronounced before birth of a child.
The vaginal epithelium consists of 5 layers, basal, parabasal, intermediate, transitional and superficial, however the changes between layers are gradual (Figure 12.2). Attachment of the cells is primarily by desmosomes with some tight junctions.
Attached to the mucous membrane is an outer smooth muscle coat consisting of an outer longitudinal layer and a less developed inner circular layer (Figure 12.3). The lower part of the vagina is surrounded by the bulbospongiosus muscle, a striped muscle attached to the perineal body. Covering the muscle tissue is a sheath of connective tissue which consists of blood vessels, lymphatic ducts, and nerve fibres. This layer joins those of the urinary bladder, rectum, and other pelvic structures.
The cervical canal is lined with columnar mucous secreting epithelium which are thrown into a series of V-shaped folds. Its wall, comprised mainly of dense fibrous connective tissue, only has a small amount of smooth muscle.
The uterus is composed of three layers of tissue. On the outside is a serous coat of peritoneum which partially covers the organ, exudes a fluid like blood minus its cells and the clotting factor fibrinogen. In front it covers only the body of the cervix; behind it covers
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