Reproductive structures in male and females


TAQ 1 - Explain the process of reproduction with particular reference to the role of the different structures within the male and the female reproductive systems.

Spermatogenesis - production of sperm - occurs in the testes, contained in the scrotum. Once sperm cells are created, they pass through the sperm ducts/glands where they're mixed with fluid which provides them with nutrients. This is called semen. The penis passes semen into the vagina during intercourse.
The production of female eggs is called Oogenesis, it takes place in the ovaries and begins before birth meaning a female is born with all the sex cells (ova) she will ever have. A woman's ovaries contain hundreds of undeveloped ova, with each ovary connected to the uterus via a fallopian tube lined with tiny hairs called cillia. Each month an ova develops, is released from the ovary and wafted along the tube by the cillia to the uterus.
Sperm released during ejaculation swim through the vagina - a muscular tube leading from the outside of the body - through the cervix and into the uterus where they may find an ova. Fertilization happens when sperm penetrate layers of the egg cell and, once in, the nuclei of these cells fuse to form a diploid cell containing a full set of DNA (zygote). After a two-week period of rapid cell division, the zygote forms an embryo. The embryo will then implant itself into the uterine wall and develop there during pregnancy.
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TAQ 2: Using a table similar to the one below, explain how hormones control the reproductive system and how the levels of each hormone change during pregnancy.

Source of hormone




Gonadotrophin releasing hormone (GnRH)


Releasing factor for anterior pituitary which, in turn, releases LH & FSH.

Stimulates contractions - as hormone levels rise contractions strengthen.

Releases prostaglandins, preparing muscles for contractions.

Anterior Pituitary & Ovaries

Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH)

Luteinising Hormone (LH)

Regulated by GnRH. Stimulates maturation of germ cells within testes/ovaries.

Female: Stimulates follicular development/oestrogen production. Carried to bloodstream by ovaries where ova growth is stimulated.

Males: Stimulates spermatogenesis/secretion of inhibin (negative feedback to anterior pituitary).

Male: Regulates gonad function. Stimulates release of testosterone from Leydig cells.

Female: Stimulates further development of ovarian follicle/production of oestrogen/progesterone from ovaries.

Triggers ovulation/encourages formation of corpus luteum.

LH concentrations increase during ovulation.

Corpus Luteum




Females: Works with oestrogen to prepare lining of uterus for fertilized ovum implantation.

Prepares breasts for releasing milk.

Females: Prevents secondary maturation of additional ova during time mature ova is released. Signals to endometrium ova is approaching/prepares it to accept fertilized ova.

Some functions of progesterone wouldn't work without oestrogen. It controls/maintains the production of other pregnancy hormones while stimulating development of the placenta and makes body ready for lactation.

Reduces GnRH and, through this, FSH and LH.


Human Chorionic Gonadotrophin (hCG)

Females: Maintains pregnancy/affects foetus development.

Levels increases in early pregnancy and give information about pregnancy/foetus health.

Testes (Leydig cells)


Male: Stimulates final stages of sperm maturation.




Females: Produced by growing ova/corpus luteum. Controls GnRH, LH, FSH levels which helps prevent development of too many ova.

Levels increase after ovulation. This, combined with rising oestrogen, signifies high fertility. Uterus lining thickens from hormone influence.

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Ensures uterine walls don't contract prematurely.

273 words

TAQ 3: Using a table similar to the one below, critically evaluate the different forms of contraception using both the advantages and disadvantages of each before reaching a conclusion as to which are seen as the best methods.

Method of contraception

Evaluation of advantages

Evaluation of disadvantages

Final evaluation


Effective used correctly.

Lowers STI risk.

Men have active part in preventing pregnancy.

Freely available.

Condom can slip off/break.

One use/by use-by date.

Allergic reactions.

I believe - due to being 99% effective - it's the best method for people who aren't in a long term relationship/are sexually active. It's important that men are responsible for contraception too. The wide availability of condoms - with little side affects - is positive.


Effective used correctly.

Regular/lighter menstrual periods.

Menstrual cramps/acne decrease.

Less likely to get ovarian/uterine cancer, ovarian cysts and anaemia.

No interruption of sexual activity.

Need to take at same time daily, pregnancy can occur if not taken, or sick (vomit/diarrhoea).

Not suitable for women 35+ who smoke/certain medical conditions.

No STI protection.

Possible side effects: nausea, increased appetite, headaches.

98% success rate. For older women - mid 20s - the pill is a viable option, especially those with a regular 'routine'. However, it can be easy to forget taking the pill and this makes pregnancy more likely.

Coitus interruptus

No cost.

No advance planning necessary.

No side effects.

Compatibility with religious beliefs.

Requires concentration/self-control by male.

Takes experience to know when ejaculation will occur.

Higher failure rate.

No STI protection.

Lower efficacy than other methods.

Required with every act of intercourse

Disadvantages far outweigh the advantages. 35 million couples rely upon this but, if not performed correctly, 27/100 women become pregnant. Too high for it to be considered safe.

Intrauterine device

Highly effective.

Stays in place for 5 - 10 years. Less than 2/100 women will get pregnant per year.

Protects immediately.

No daily attention.

Can be removed at any time.

Needs to be inserted by a GP.

Can fall out/rupture the uterus.

Side effects: menstrual cramping, heavier periods.

This is the best form of birth control. Once inserted, it's 99% effective with less than 2/100 women getting pregnant per year. It's safe and once inserted doesn't need to be thought about for years. Also IUD can be removed instantly for pregnancy needs.

Rhythm method


Approved by many religions.

Women gets to know her body/menstrual cycles.

Good for partners who are careful during ovulation & several days before/after.

Have to figure out when ovulating every month. In young women this can differ.

No sexual intercourse for a week per month - plus few days before/after.

Teens/women with irregular periods should not use. Failure rate is high.

Cuts down the time per month when sexual intercourse can occur. Is a complicated way to ensure pregnancy doesn't occur. I feel this is a labour intensive. Our bodies rhythms change and I don't believe the method can be trusted.

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TAQ 4: What causes each of the following genetic conditions.

1. Huntingdon's Disease

It's autosomal dominant and is caused by a build up of Huntingtin protein in the body. In a normal person the genetic code for this protein (CAG repeat) occurs 7 - 34 times. In a sufferer it can occur 40+ times which, throughout life, can make the protein mildly toxic which affects/impairs movement behaviours. If either of the genes inherited from a parent are this gene then the person will have this condition.

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Sufferer and sufferer









25% chance of having child clear of the condition (hh), 75% will have the condition (HH, Hh).

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2. Sickle cell anaemia

It's inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern. It's a disorder affecting red blood cells that use a protein (haemoglobin) to transport oxygen from the lungs to the body. A mutation in a gene on chromosome 11 (which codes for the beta subunit of Haemoglobin protein) is mutated, meaning molecules don't form properly causing them to be rigid/of concave shape. Irregular shaped cells get stuck in blood vessels and can't transport oxygen efficiently, causing organ pain and damage.

Non carrier and carrier









25% - or 1 in 4 - children would be a carrier (Ff). The rest would not carry or suffer (FF)

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3. Cystic Fibrosis

An autosomal recessive condition inherited and carried on two main chromosomes. Both copies need to be CF causing variety for the person to have the disease. Sufferer can't create protein (CFTR) which regulates salt/water found around certain organs, particularly lungs, thus leading to thick mucus which damages/blocks airways and leads to infection.

If CF genes are opposed by genes for normal CTFR production, condition is suppressed. Gene can be passed on even if person doesn't suffer the condition (carrier). Gene may be expressed in offspring if they have children with another carrier.

Sufferer parent and carrier









50% sufferers (ff), 50% carriers (Ff).

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TAQ 5: Genetic counselling is an important consideration, particularly for couples at risk of a range of genetic based conditions and predispositions. What different kinds of genetic counselling are there and what are they used for? Write a short essay explaining the use of such counselling.

When testing for genetic conditions, there are a range of genetic counselling options available to individuals. These tests can be carried out as early as embryo stage, right through the much later in life. Below are some of the key genetic tests that can be carried out.

Carrier testing is used to identify people who carry one copy of a gene mutation that, when present in two copies (such as Cystic Fibrosis), causes a genetic disorder. This test if offered to individuals who have a family history of a genetic disorder/people in certain ethnic groups with an increased risk of a condition (sick cell anaemia). The test provides the couple with information on the probability of them having a child who will carry/suffer from the genetic condition. Information can then be used to inform decisions around the most appropriate way to conceive a child.

Pre-implantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) is a specialized technique that detects genetic changes in embryos that have been created using assisted reproductive techniques such as in-vitro fertilization (IVF). Egg cells are removed from a woman's ovaries and fertilized with sperm outside of the body. To perform the test, a small number of cells are taken from the embryos and tested for specific genetic changes. Only embryos without these changes are implanted back into the women's uterus to initiate a pregnancy, thus ensuring the resulting baby is free of the condition.

Chronic Villi Sampling can be carried out between 11 and 14 weeks of pregnancy. It's normally carried out where there is a high risk of the foetus developing conditions such as Down's Syndrome or Sickle Cell Anaemia, there has been a pregnancy before with these problems or there is family medical history. Chronic villi cells are taken from the placenta using either a transabdominal CVS or a transcervical CVS. Test results are available within days. As there is no cure for most of the conditions tested for using CVS, the results gained would allow parents to decide to whether to terminate the pregnancy/give them time to gather information about the condition so that they are fully prepared.

An Amniocentesis is a diagnostic test carried out on pregnant women between 15 - 20 weeks of their gestation. Because a needle is inserted into the foetus' amniotic fluid sac, it would increase the risk of miscarriage if carried out before this. This test assess whether the foetus has, or may, develop abnormal or serious health conditions such as Down's Syndrome, Spina Bifida and Sickle Cell Anaemia. A mother's age, medical history or inherited conditions can determine this. A needle is inserted into the amniotic sac and amniotic fluid drawn. This fluid contains cells that have been shed from the foetus and these are tested. The results enable the woman to decide whether to continue with the pregnancy or start thinking about healthcare options for the baby when born.

Predictive and Presymptomatic testing is used to detect gene mutations associated with disorders that appear after birth, often later in life, such as breast cancer. These tests can be very helpful to a person if a family member has a disease, but the person themselves have no signs of the illness at the time of testing. It can identify gene mutations that increase the risk of developing disorders and determine whether a person will develop a genetic disorder before signs or symptoms appear.

An example of someone undergoing this form of genetic counselling is the actress Angelina Jolie. Her mother died of breast cancer and, as Angelina is a mother herself, she wanted to be tested to see whether she carried the cancer gene. Once tested, it was found that she did, and she made the decision to have a double mastectomy.

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