Functions of Human Reproductive System

Talking of human male and female reproductive system, the latter is relatively more complex as, along with the production of egg cells (called ova or oocytes), it also has to hold and nourish the fetus till it gets fully developed. On the other hand, the male re-productive system is concerned only with the production of male sex hormones and sperm cells. So, let us explore the functions of these mechanisms, in both the genders, one by one:

Functions of Female Reproductive System

For the proper understanding of female reproductive system functions, you need to have basic knowledge of the menstrual cycle.

Menstrual Cycle

It refers to the cycle of hormonal activities, experienced by females of productive age (starting from 11 to 16) which is repeated at the interval of about one month. Irrespective of the woman's intention, each cycle prepares her body for a potential pregnancy. The average duration of menstrual cycle is about 28 days and this period can be divided into three phases, i.e. the follicular phase, the ovulatory phase and the luteal phase.

Follicular Phase

Starting from the very first day of the period, its lasts for about two weeks, whereupon the ovulation phase starts. Following important incidents occur during this phase:

  • The brain releases two hormones, i.e. FSH (Follicle Stimulating Hormone) and LH (Luteinizing Hormone) which travel with blood to reach ovaries.
  • With the action of these hormones, about 15-20 eggs, present in the shells or follicles, get stimulated.
  • At the same time, the FSH and LH trigger an increase in the pro-duction of estrogen a female hormone.
  • The subsequent increase in the level of estrogen inhibits the pro-duction of FSH, so that no more follicles are stimulated.
  • With the progress of the follicular phase, one of the follicles in each ovary attains dominance over the others and continues to mature. The suppressed follicles stop growing and die, while the dominant follicle continues to produce estrogen hormone.

Ovulatory Phase

Marking the midpoint of the menstrual cycle, it starts about 14 days after the onset of follicular phase or the menstrual period itself. Similarly, two weeks after the start of this phase, another menstrual cycle starts. Following are the major events which take place during the phase of ovulation:

  • The increased levels of estrogen, released by the dominant folli-cle, trigger an increase in the LH (Luteinizing Hormone) which is being produced by the brain.
  • The subsequent surge in the amount of LH causes the dominant follicle to release its egg from the ovary. This process of the re-lease of the egg from the ovary is called ovulation.
  • The egg released from the ovary is captured by fimbriae and swept into the fallopian tube. The fimbriae are the finger-like pro-jections present at the end of the fallopian tubes.
  • Another significant event, occurring during this phase, is that of the increase in the amount and thickness of mucus produced by the lower part of the uterus, called cervix.
  • It is worth noticing that if a woman were to have intercourse during this period, the thick mucus layer captures and nourishes the man's sperm and helps it move towards the egg for fertilization.

Luteal Phase

Beginning right after the termination of the ovulation stage, the luteal phase involves following important processes:

  • After releasing the egg, the empty follicle develops into a new biologically important structure, called the corpus luteum.
  • Two hormones are secreted by the corpus luteum, namely, estro-gen and progesterone, where the latter prepares the uterus for the implantation of the fertilized egg.
  • If there has occurred conception (fertilization of the egg by man's sperm during sexual intercourse), the embryo (fertilized egg) starts travelling through the fallopian tube to get implanted in the uterus. Such a condition marks the onset of pregnancy in a wom-an.
  • If the egg has not been fertilized, it passes through the uterus and is discharged out of the body. Similarly, not needed to support a pregnancy, the thick mucus lining of the uterus breaks down and sheds. Now it is the time for the initiation of anew menstrual cy-cle.

Functions of Male Reproductive System

You will see less variety and complexity in the functioning of male reproductive system as compared to that of the opposite gender. Listed below are some of the most important male reproductive functions that will help enhance your knowledge and understanding of this biological mechanism:

Production of Sperms (Spermatogenesis)

It is the most important of all the functions performed by your reproductive system. It is the duty of testes or testicles to produce millions of male sex cells, called sperms.

Semen Production

The sugar rich fluid, produced along with sperms, in male reproductive system not only nourishes sperms but also plays a protective role for them.

Genesis of Testosterone

Testosterone is the principal male sex hormone and an anabolic steroid that is produced by the testicles of males. This regulatory biochemical significantly affects the way a man's body develops.

Urination and Transfer of Semen

The tubular structure passing through the penis urethra has got dual functionality. Firstly, it assists in the process of urination during which urine is received from the bladder and is discharged out of the body. Secondly, urethra is concerned with the transfer of semen into the vagina of a female during sexual intercourse.

About the Author

Posted by: M. Isaac / Senior writer

A graduate in biological sciences and a PhD scholar (NCBA&E University, Lahore), M. Isaac combines his vast experience with a keen and critical eye to create practical and inherently engaging content on the human body. His background as a researcher and instructor at a secondary school enables him to best understand the needs of the beginner level learners and the amateur readers and educate them about how their body works, and how they can adopt a healthier lifestyle.

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