The Female reproductive organs

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Female reproduction results in the production of ova/oocytes. External organs (labia majora and minora, Bartholin's glands and clitoris) allow sperm to enter the body and keep bacteria out. Internal organs form a pathway along which sperm can travel up and eggs down.

The vagina is a stretchy tube which connects external and internal organs. Sperm are deposited here, a foetus can leave the body and menstrual flow can be expelled. The ovaries produce and release eggs and the fallopian tubes (oviducts) are where fertilization happens. The fertilized egg implants into the wall of the uterus and pregnancy begins but if fertilization does not occur, menstruation does and the lining of the womb is shed via the vagina.

Figure 1: Internal female reproductive organs

The male reproductive system comprises;

  • the testes, where sperm (in the seminiferous tubules) and testosterone are produced
  • the penis, an external organ containing a duct (urethra) from which, during reproduction, sperm are transferred

The testes are outside the body, carried in the scrotum where their delicate temperature balance can be maintained. They need to be kept cooler than body temperature and if this balance is disrupted sperm will not survive.

Sperm mature in the epididymis before moving into the vas deferens and seminal vesicles. Here they combine with seminal fluids, produced in the prostate gland and the Cowper's glands. This fluid is expelled from the body during ejaculation.

Figure 2: Male reproductive organs

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Assessment Criteria 1.2

Criteria 1.2 Explain the role of hormonal control in the human reproductive cycle

Using a table explain how hormones control the reproductive system and how the levels of each hormone change during pregnancy. (250 words)

Source of hormone



Men and women – Pituitary gland


Men – Encourages sertoli cells to produce androgen-binding protein spermatogenesis stimulation.

Women – Stimulates ova production from follicles and steroid production by ovaries (estraiol in follicular phase and progesterone in luteal phase). Rise midcycle with LH, ovulation triggered as result.

Women - Placental hormone secreted by cells (syncitiotrophoblasts) when implantation takes place

hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin)

Tells corpus luteum to keep producing progesterone, keeping the body warmer preventing the menstrual period occurring by stopping the endometrial-uterine lining from breaking down.

Levels drop at end of first trimester when placenta takes over progesterone production.

Men and women - Gonadotroph cells in anterior pituitary gland

LH (luteinising hormone)

Men – Regulates function of of testes and stimulates leydig cells to produce testosterone.

Women – Stimulates ovary to produce steroids.

Increase in LH prompts ovulation and development of the corpus luteum

Women - Secreted by syncitial trophoblast cells in ovaries and the body’s fat tissues


Increased levels in pregnancy:

-develop rich vascular lining in the uterus walls which will support/nourish the developing embryo.

-in 2nd trimester assist in milk duct development and breast enlargement, reaching their peak in 3rd trimester.

Vital for development of foetal organs and stimulates production of other pregnancy hormones.

Levels fall after delivery allowing colostrum production.

Women - Released by the corpus luteum in ovary


If released egg is fertilised it prepares the body for pregnancy.If the egg is not fertilised, the production of progesterone falls and a new menstrual cycle begins.

Levels fall after delivery to allow for colostrum production

Men (andogen) - Leydig cells in testes

Women – Ovaries, adrenal glands


Men - Maintains reproductive tissues, stimulating sperm production. Allows the normal development of male physical characteristics.

Women – Increases libido, heightens arousal, maintains bone density and muscle mass.

Word count = 303


Assessment Criteria 2.1

Criteria 2.1 Critically evaluate the advantages/disadvantages of different methods of


Using the below table 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. (400 words)

Method of contraception

Evaluation of advantages

Evaluation of disadvantages

Final evaluation


With perfect use are 98% effective (Healthgrove, 2015).

Provide STD protection and with no prescription needed (NHS Choices, 2015).

With typical use 82% (Healthgrove, 2015)/ 80% effective (, 2015).

Barrier method can cause irritation/allergic reactions, and a new one needs to be used each time.

Reliability statistics drop significantly with typical use.

The US National Library of Medicine, 2015 found that a more positive and safer experience could be had when men took longer to apply the condom.

With perfect use, STD protection and minimal side effects make this a cheap and potentially very safe, non-intrusive option.


According to NHS Choices (2015) with perfect use the combined pill is over 99.7% effective and the progesterone only pill 99% effective. Does not effect future fertility and is reversible.

-Typical use 91% effective (Healthgrove, 2015).

-Hormone method.

-Needs to be taken every day.

-No STD protection.

-Prescription needed.

- Possible links to increased risk of breast cancer (US National Library of Medicine, 2015).

- Many possible side effects including; change in cycle, blood clots, high blood pressure, weight gain (Healthgrove, 2015).

With careful use the pill is very reliable. It is not suitable for everyone (, 2015) and does not provide protection from STD’s but as long as users have reviewed the possible side effects it is a very effective method of contraception.

Coitus interruptus

With perfect use this natural method of contraception is 98% effective at preventing pregnancy (Healthgrove, 2015). It carries no side effects, cost or prescription requirements but has been recommended that people using this method also keep emergency contraception to hand

-Typical use 78% effective

-No STD protection.

-Needs to be used each time.

Some studies say that there is no sperm in pre-ejaculate however others (Killick, Leary, Trussell and Guthrie, 2011) have found that 37% of men tested had sperm present. In light of this and the fact it is easy for a man to not withdraw soon enough the disadvantages of coitus inerruptus out weight the advantages.

Intrauterine device

According to the Family Planning Association (2015) when professionally implanted this method is 99.8% effective under all circumstances.

The IUD only needs to be changed every 3-5 years and it is available on the NHS.

IUD method involves implantation of a device which carries the risk of infection. However the biggest disadvantages are that periods may become heavier/last longer and that the IUD offers so protection against STD’s.

There are possible side effects including; bleeding, ovarian cysts, cramps and infertility.

As a long acting reversible contraceptive the IUD is a very safe and reliable method of birth control.

Rhythm method

With careful training most women can use this method. Involves no chemicals and has no effect on fertility or any side effects . With careful calculation can be 99% effective.

Formula for calculating fertile periods is based on the assumption that ovulation happens halfway through the menstrual cycle. Fertile periods can be easily mis calculated.

Complex cycle calculations, changes in lifestyle and the fact that people typically have cycle changes regularly make this a very unreliable contraception option.

As Nice (2015) surmise; ‘Women with conditions which make pregnancy an unacceptable risk should be advised that fertility awareness–based methods may not be appropriate for them because other methods of contraception have lower failure rates with typical use.’

Word count = 485 (excluding quotes)


Assessment Criteria 3.1

Criteria 3.1 Describe the cause of a range of common genetic conditions

What causes each of the following genetic conditions

  1. Huntington’s disease
  2. Sickle cell anaemia
  3. Cystic fibrosis

100 words each (300 total)

  1. Huntington’s disease

An autosomal neurodegenerative disease which effects how a person can talk, move and think.

Caused by an autosomal dominant mutation on one of an individual’s two duplicates of a gene called Huntingtin, this gene supplies the genetic make up for a protein, also called Huntingtin. The mutated gene is coded for a poisonous protein which kills nerve cells in the brain.

A child of an individual with a mutated gene has a 50% risk of developing the disease, only one mutated gene needing to be inherited owing to its dominance. Should both parents have the effected gene there is a 75% risk and if both have two mutated genes, 100%.

Figure 3: Autosomal dominant gene inheritance

Word count = 110

  1. Sickle cell anaemia

A genetic disease effecting haemoglobin, the oxygen transport molecule in blood. A letter code change in the DNA alters one of the amino acids in the haemoglobin resulting in misshapen blood cells. Causes blood vessel occlusion, joint and abdominal pain and tissue infections.

An inherited disease with an autosomal recessive pattern meaning both parents must be carriers of the defective gene to pass it on. The odds of two carriers having a child who is unaffected is 1:4 and a carrier is 1:2. To be a sufferer two faulty genes are required, therefore the odds of two carriers having a child with the disease carries a 1 in 4 risk.

Figure 4: Autosomal recessive inheritance Figure 5: Normal and sickled red blood cell shape

Word count = 110

  1. Cystic fibrosis (CF)

A genetic condition caused by a faulty CTFR gene, responsible for moving salt and water out of a cell. In sufferers thick mucus blocks areas of the body resulting in inflammation in the lungs.

CF is an autosomal recessive genetic condition caused by mutations in a pair of genes. Everyone has two copies of the CTFR gene however you can only be a sufferer if both are mutated, inheriting one from each parent. If both parents carry the gene the odds are;

  • 25% (1:4) offspring will have CF
  • 50% (1:2) offspring will be a faulty gene carrier
  • 25% (1:4) offspring will not have the faulty gene.

Figure 6: Normal and mutant CTFR channels

Word count = 109


Assessment Criteria 3.2

Criteria 3.1 Explain the different methods of genetic counselling


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. (600 words)

Genetic counselling is a communication process which helps families who are effected by genetic disorders understand the concept of the inheritance. It involves a healthcare professional trained in genetics helping the counselee understand the disorder, reviewing treatment planning and presenting options for further offspring in relation to the genetic issue in question. It is non directive and provides an unbiased foundation for discussion. The counsellor can assess the individual’s coping skills and help with the emotional burden of the disorder and tailor a counselling programme to meet their requirements ultimately ‘facilitating patient choice whilst maintaining patient safety’ (Skirton, Goldsmith, Jackson, Tiben, 2012). Typically genetic counselling is divided into two stages of pre- and post-test counselling and comprise different methods of approach depending on the context, disease being tested for and the implications for the individual. Genetic counselling is presented as an integral part of genetic testing however participation is not is not compulsory though it is recommended.

Pre-test counselling presents the individual with information about the purpose of the test, early diagnosis and treatment, inheritance patterns, possible reproductive options and where appropriate prevention methods. Risk, choices and test reliability may also be discussed at this stage. In order to ensure understanding counsellors will tailor delivery methods in a way which is appropriate the family. Such is the possible impact on individuals and families that prior to any diagnostic testing discussions about informed consent and the right not-to-know will take place, in addition to debate of the issues relating to the need to inform relatives about the test result. Depending on the situation and resources available assistance from additional personnel such as a psychologist or social worker may be appropriate. This additional network offering not only a forum for the physical and psychological ramifications to be discussed but also the social aspect of financial support and resources available in the community to be considered.