What is the Uterus?

Photo © A.D.A.M.

The uterus is a small, hollow, pear-sized organ found in women. Sitting between the bladder and rectum, the lower end of the uterus opens into the cervix, which then opens into the vagina. The uterus has many important and crucial functions in the reproductive capacity of women.The most important role of the uterus is for housing a developing fetus. In Latin, the word uterus means wound.

Other roles of the uterus include its involvement in menstruation and for providing structural support to the bladder, bowel and pelvis.

The uterus has a rich supply of blood vessels that extend to the female genitalia and are essential for women to achieve orgasm during sexual activity.

The Function of the Uterus in Menstruation

Each month, hormones like estrogen and progesterone encourage the uterine lining (also called endometrium) to thicken and mature in preparation for the implantation of a fertilized egg. If implantation does not occur, the lining is shed each month as menses.

The Function of the Uterus During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, the uterus stretches and grows to accommodate the maturing fetus. It also maintains the proper environment for the fetus to grow in thanks to a large supply of blood vessels and nutrients from the endometrium. The uterus also contracts rhythmically during intercourse to facilitate the passage of sperm through the cervix and deep into the uterus for conception. Finally, the thick muscular layer of the uterus is responsible for pushing the baby and placenta out during childbirth.

Tipped Uterus

In most women, the uterus is positioned slightly forward (anteverted) so that it is resting lightly on the bladder. It is held in place by ligaments and the pressure of the other pelvic organs. But, if you have a tipped (also known as retroverted) uterus, your uterus is angled backward.

While this may sound concerning, in most cases, it is nothing to be concerned about. If you are having any other symptoms, like pain during intercourse or your period, let your doctor know. Occasionally, a tipped uterus may signal that something more serious is going on.

What is a Hysterectomy?

A hysterectomy is a major surgery to remove a woman’s uterus. A hysterectomy may be needed to treat various problems associated with periods including pelvic pain, tumors, fibroids, abnormal or dysfunctional uterine bleeding, and may be indicated for cancer and other related conditions. A hysterectomy will stop a woman from having her periods and prevent her from being able to conceive. Complete recovery from a hysterectomy is painful and usually takes 6 to 8 weeks.

Source:

Huether, Sue E., and McCance, Kathryn L. Understanding Pathophysiology; 3rd Edition. Mosby: St. Louis. 2004. p. 867.

Updated by PCOS Expert Angela Grassi, MS, RDN, LDN

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