What is the purpose of ovaries?


Quick Answer

Ovaries store human gametes, or eggs, and produce hormones as girls mature and begin ovulating, according to Nemours. From birth, a female's ovaries are filled with unfertilized eggs. During adolescence, the pituitary gland in the brain releases hormones that trigger the production of sex hormones, such as estrogen, in the ovaries.

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Full Answer

Women have two almond-shaped ovaries suspended in the pelvic region by fibrous ligaments, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. An ovary's outer layer contains follicles, hollow cell clusters that store oocytes, or immature egg cells. Female infants are born with up to 500,000 follicles, and this amount continually decreases throughout adulthood as reproductive capabilities diminish. An occupied follicle eventually ruptures, releasing mature eggs from the ovaries into the Fallopian tubes.

Menstruation occurs when the released egg is not fertilized by sperm, causing it to wither and pass through the uterus before exiting the body, Nemours states. A menstrual flow takes place when the body expels blood and cell tissue from the uterine lining.

Ovaries also function as endocrine glands, discharging progesterone and estrogen into the bloodstream, according to Encyclopaedia Britannica. Estrogen is essential for female physiological development, stimulating the growth of breasts and pubic hair, HowStuffWorks states. The pelvis also widens and body fat increases around the hips and thighs, rounding out the female form.

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