The ovaries are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus. About the size and shape of almonds, they are made up of several different cell types.
Some carry out the hormonal functions of the organ, while others provide physical support. The ovaries have two main functions:
- Ovulation (the release of an egg each month)
- Production of estrogen and progesterone, hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle and pregnancy and control the development of female physical traits, such as the breasts, pelvic structure, fat distribution, and body hair.
From birth, the ovaries contain the cells that eventually become ova (eggs). Each month, beginning with puberty and until menopause, hormones produced by the pituitary gland in the brain stimulate ovulation (release of an egg), which alternates each month between the two ovaries. (Not all women ovulate every month.)
The egg travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus. If it is fertilized, it may grow and develop in the womb.
If not, hormone changes cause shedding of the uterine lining, and menstruation begins about two weeks later.
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