Most women know their own bodies very well, with great insight into its ebbs and flows. But how well do you know your ovaries? Without them our lives and our bodies would be very different indeed. Here are some fun and interesting facts on your body’s most vital reproductive organ.
- A baby is born with all the eggs she will ever have throughout her lifetime.
- At birth a woman’s ovaries will hold hundreds of thousands to millions of eggs.
- Throughout a woman’s lifetime only about 300-400 of those eggs will become mature and be released for fertilization.
- By the time a girl reaches puberty, her egg count will have diminished to around 400,000.
- By the time she reaches menopause she will only have about 400-500 eggs.
Size, Shape, and Texture
- Ovaries are grayish-pink in color, have an uneven surface, and are about the shape and size of an almond
- The size of the ovaries change depending on the woman’s age, being larger during her reproductive phase and shrinking after menopause.
- The uneven surface of the ovary is caused by cystic structures. These are actually normal, as the structures represent different stages of egg growth and development.
- The ovaries serve two main functions. Producing eggs, or ovum, of which one is released approximately every 28 days. The ovaries also produce and secrete hormones, such as estrogen and progesterone, which stimulate the female reproductive organs and initiate puberty and menopause.
- During the first part of your menstrual cycle before ovulation, the ovaries produce mainly estrogen. Estrogen is responsible for the development of female reproductive organs and the menstrual cycle. After ovulation, production focuses mainly on progesterone, which helps maintain a normal menstrual cycle. Progesterone is important during pregnancy and after for milk production.
- More hormones are released during pregnancy than any other time in a woman’s life.
- The ovaries’ male counterpart is the testes.
- The ovaries undergo several changes during a woman’s life. Before puberty, follicles (which later turn into eggs) develop in the ovaries. During puberty hormonal activity begins, causing ovulation. Around the age of 45-50 menopause occurs, causing the ovaries to atrophy and stop producing eggs.
- After a woman’s last menstrual cycle, the ovaries no longer serve any function.
- The ovaries lie in a depression called the ovarian fossa.
- Ovaries can cease to work in women with low body weight or female athletes who maintain a small percentage of body fat. The ovaries will begin to function again when the woman gains back weight.
- Ovaries can be susceptible to cancer, being one of the hardest cancers to detect and therefore one of the most deadly. In fact, ovarian cancer causes more deaths than any other cancer of the female reproductive system. Symptoms are very commonplace, such as bloating or abdominal pain which can lead to late diagnosis. If detected early ovarian cancer is treatable.
- Many women develop ovarian cysts, which are fluid-filled pockets on the ovary. Most cysts occur when the egg is not properly released or the follicle does not dissolve properly. Most cysts are harmless and will go away on their own.
- Ovarian cysts can cause trouble if they bleed, twist or rupture. It is important to consult your doctor if experiencing any pain or discomfort, as only a doctor can discover if you have a dangerous cyst, or other issue such as endometriosis or ovarian cancer.
Now that you know a little bit more about your ovaries, you can be more informed on staying healthy and keeping your body in tip top shape. Do you know any fun ovary facts? Please share with us!
Dr. Joanna Ellington (Dr. E) discusses real life issues at her informative blog Sex, Science and Nature. She is an internationally recognized scientist in the area of Sperm Physiology. During her National Institute of Health-funded research into what makes healthy sperm, Dr. Ellington realized that many couples were using lubricants that killed sperm. Dr. Ellington’s research led her to invent Pre-Seed’s patented “fertility-friendly” lubricant formula that is clinically shown to be safe for couples trying to conceive.