In the pelvis, a woman’s reproductive organs comprise:
- The uterus;
- Its fallopian tubes and cervix; and
- The ovaries, which are oval-shaped and sit either side of the uterus.
The menstrual cycle, caused by hormones released from the brain and ovaries, lasts an average of 28 days, and has three phases: the follicular phase, the ovulation phase, and the luteal phase:1,3
- Days 1-13 (follicular phase)
Ovaries produce oestrogen, important for the development of the ovarian follicle and its egg.1,3
- Around day 14 (ovulation phase)
As the follicle and egg reaches maturity, a surge of hormones – follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinising hormone (LH) – cause the release (ovulation) of the egg. Ovulation can occur within the next 24-48 hours.1,3
- Days 15-28 (luteal phase)
The ovaries release progesterone to prepare the uterus for the embryo. If fertilisation doesn’t occur, the lining of the uterus will shed, leading to menstruation, and the cycle starts again.1,3
Either side of the uterus – a pear-shaped muscle that stretches to hold the growing baby – are the fallopian tubes which transport the ovulated egg to be fertilised by the sperm and propel the embryo into the uterus after five days of growth, where the embryo will hopefully implant, and develop into a baby.3
Every woman has a biological clock in the form of an ovarian reserve. The store of eggs in a woman’s ovaries gradually depletes with age, up until menopause.3
1. IVF Australia. Female fertility. Available a: http://ivf.com.au/about-fertility/female-reproductive-system#natural-ovulation-and-conception [last accessed September 2015].
3. Conceiveplease™ Getting pregnant naturally.