The female reproductive system
and the effects of aging

The female reproductive system consists of internal and external organs.

The internal structures include the:

  • Ovary - a gland that produces eggs and hormones. Women are born with about a million eggs in their ovaries, which begin dying almost immediately and by puberty only about 400,000 eggs remain. Only about 300-400 eggs ovulate during a woman's reproductive years.
  • Fallopian tube - sweeps the egg from the ovary draws it through its tunnels, where fertilization of the egg occurs. If the egg is not fertilized it will continue to travel through the fallopian tube, to the uterus and exit the body with the next period.
  • Uterus - a pear shaped hollow organ and made of smooth muscle tissue. It is also referred to as the womb and is where the fetus develops during pregnancy.
  • Cervix - the lower part of the uterus leading to the vagina, producing secretions for lubrication and protection against bacteria.
  • Vagina - a narrow, very elastic muscular canal, about 4 inches long that joins the cervix to the outside of the body. Also known as the birth canal, the vagina is a closed under normal circumstances, its walls touching each other. But its elasticity allows for both sexual intercourse and childbirth.

The external structures function to allow sperm to enter the body and to protect against infection. They consist of:

  • Labia majora - the large lips
  • Labia minora - the small lips lying just behind the large lips
  • Clitoris - a small sensitive protrusion where the labia majora and minora meet and extends into the vagina whose function is to provide sexual pleasure.

During her reproductive years, a woman goes through monthly cycles of hormonal activity in which an egg is released from one of the ovaries into the fallopian tube and the uterus prepares itself for conception. If the egg is not fertilized, it passes through the uterus and the lining of the uterus breaks down and monthly menstruation begins.

As the amount of eggs lessen in the ovaries, the menstual cycles can become irregular. The decrease in egg cells also induces less hormones to to be produced. When no eggs remain in the ovaries, we are said to be in menopause. Symptoms of menopause vary among women in both their severity and how long they last.

How does aging change
the female reproductive system?

As the levels of hormones fall, a number of changes occur:

  • The vaginal walls become thinner, less rigid and lose some of their elasticity.
  • The vagina produces less lubrication and at a slower rate during sexual arousal.
  • The pH environment changes making the vagina more susceptible to yeast infections.
  • Labia majora and minora become thinner and secretions decrease.

These changes can result in painful intercourse and increased susceptibility to infections and viruses.

Taking care of an aging female reproductive system

  • Avoid perfumed soaps, bubble baths and feminine sprays that can cause irritation and itching.
  • Be very careful about wiping from front to back to avoid bacteria spreading from rectum to vaginal area.
  • Wear underwear and clothes made of material that breaths. Avoid synthetics.
  • A healthy diet plan that includes good fats , foods rich in calcium, and lots of colorful fruits and vegetables.
  • Drink 8 glasses of water every day.
  • Try vitamin E capsules (400 iu) inserted directly into the vagina 3 times a week. Use the natural form, not the synthetic. Or alternately, there are vitamin e suppositories available, if you prefer.
  • Sex helps keep your vagina pliable. If that's not possible, insert your fingers gently while showering to maintain flexibility.
  • Since lubrication is slower during sex, prolong foreplay as much as possible.
  • Use a lubricant during sex. You can buy it over the counter or simply use oils you have at home such as olive oil, vitamin e or coconut oil.

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