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Medicine LibreTexts

27.0: Introduction

Chapter Objectives:

  • Describe the anatomy of the male and female reproductive systems, including their accessory structures
  • Explain the role of hypothalamic and pituitary hormones in male and female reproductive function
  • Trace the path of a sperm cell from its initial production through fertilization of an oocyte
  • Explain the events in the ovary prior to ovulation
  • Describe the development and maturation of the sex organs and the emergence of secondary sex characteristics during puberty

Small, uncoordinated, and slick with amniotic fluid, a newborn encounters the world outside of her mother’s womb. We do not often consider that a child’s birth is proof of the healthy functioning of both her mother’s and father’s reproductive systems. Moreover, her parents’ endocrine systems had to secrete the appropriate regulating hormones to induce the production and release of unique male and female gametes, reproductive cells containing the parents’ genetic material (one set of 23 chromosomes). Her parent’s reproductive behavior had to facilitate the transfer of male gametes—the sperm—to the female reproductive tract at just the right time to encounter the female gamete, an oocyte (egg). Finally, combination of the gametes (fertilization) had to occur, followed by implantation and development. In this chapter, you will explore the male and female reproductive systems, whose healthy functioning can culminate in the powerful sound of a newborn’s first cry.


Figure 27.0.1: Ovulation. Following a surge of luteinizing hormone (LH), an oocyte (immature egg cell) will be released into the uterine tube, where it will then be available to be fertilized by a male’s sperm. Ovulation marks the end of the follicular phase of the ovarian cycle and the start of the luteal phase.