Humans reproduce sexually, that means giving birth to the children (viviparous). Sexual reproduction involves the formation and subsequent fusion of male and female gametes, giving rise to a zygote. The zygote contains one set of chromosomes each from both parents. A single-celled zygote develops into a complete human being. The reproductive system of males and females differ remarkably.
The male and female reproductive organs are located in the pelvis region. In females, ovaries, uterus, fallopian tubes are present in the pelvic cavity along with other visceral organs, protected by the pelvic girdle.
In humans, the reproductive system is complex and comprises highly specialised organs and tissues to carry out different sets of activities involved in the reproductive process such as gametogenesis, transfer of gametes, fertilisation, embryonic development and parturition. Let’s learn the anatomical structure and salient features of the male and female reproductive system.
Male Reproductive System
The male reproductive system comprises a pair of testes, associated ducts, glands and external genital organs, present in the pelvis region. Testes are the primary sexual organs, where sperms are produced. They lie in a pouch called the scrotum, which is present below the abdomen and outside the body. Sperms are produced in the seminiferous tubules, which is a highly coiled structure present in the testicular lobules.
There are various different types of cells present in the testes, which perform specific functions. The seminiferous tubules contain male germ cells and Sertoli cells. The male germ cells or spermatogonia cells undergo spermatogenesis to produce sperms, whereas Sertoli cells are nurse cells and provide nutrition to the germ cells.
Outside the seminiferous tubules, Leydig cells are present, which secrete male hormones or androgens, e.g. testosterone.
The accessory ducts in males include rete testis, vasa efferentia, epididymis and vas deferens. These are connected in the same order to seminiferous tubules. Retes testis is connected to seminiferous tubules and vas deferens opens into the urethra. Sperm maturation completes in these ducts. They store and transport sperms to the urethra for ejaculation. The penis is the external genital organ in males.
There are certain glands that are associated with the male reproductive system, they are a pair of seminal vesicles and bulbourethral glands and a prostate gland. Secretions from these glands constitute seminal plasma, which nourishes, protects and carries sperms after ejaculation.
Female Reproductive System
The female reproductive system comprises a pair of ovaries, fallopian tubes, a uterus, cervix, vagina and the external genital organs. These are located in the pelvic cavity. Ovaries are the primary sexual organs in females. The egg or ovum is produced inside the ovaries by the process called oogenesis. Ovaries are connected to the uterus by a pair of fallopian ducts or oviducts. Fallopian tube parts include the infundibulum, which is the funnel-shaped part close to the ovaries and collects the ovum at the time of ovulation. The next part is the ampulla, where the ovum meets with sperm and fertilisation takes place. The last part of the fallopian tubes is known as the isthmus, which connects to the uterus.
The uterus is the muscular organ, where embryonic development during gestation takes place. The uterine wall has three layers of tissues, external perimetrium, middle myometrium and inner endometrium. The endometrium layer is glandular and lines the uterine cavity. The uterus leads to the vagina through the cervix. The developing embryo gets implanted in the lining of the uterus.
Compared to males, where the process of spermatogenesis starts at puberty, oogenesis starts during the embryonic development itself. The female gamete mother cell or oogonia start dividing and oogenesis gets arrested at the prophase I of meiosis cell division. The cells are called primary oocytes. Ovaries secrete various hormones that regulate the process of oogenesis and the development of secondary sexual characteristics.
The function of both male and female gonads is regulated by the pituitary hormones called gonadotropins, viz., Luteinizing hormone (LH) and Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
This was in brief about the human reproductive system. For more information related to human anatomy, subscribe to BYJU’S YouTube Channel.