ERG Index
GI Index

ENDO Index


Histology Study Guide
Female Reproductive System

[Male System]

Online slides of the female genital tract-- normal  |  pathology
Online slides of the breast -- normal  |  pathology

These specimens at the Virtual Slidebox (University of Iowa Department of Pathology) may be examined with full range of magnification and movement.  Requires Java and fast internet connection


The female tract begins with the paired ovaries, leads through the windings of the fallopian tubes (oviducts) to the uterus, and then opens through the cervix into the vagina.  Special structures, the placenta and the umbilical cord, develop during pregnancy.  The mammary glands are conventionally included in discussions of the female reproductive system, because they contribute to the same reproductive function and respond to the same set of hormone signals as the tract proper.

Several structures in the female reproductive system are especially notable because they are effectively temporary organs, which undergo substantial changes over the course of the monthly menstrual cycle and during pregnancy.  Thus it is especially important to coordinate study of this system's histology with study of reproductive (including endocrine) physiology.


The ovary is a very peculiar organ in which many oocyte-containing follicles are embedded in an extensive cellular stroma.

The fallopian tubes use ciliated cells on the surface of an elaborately folded mucosa to transport egg cells from the ovary to the uterus.

The uterus has an extremely thick muscular wall, the myometrium, and a thick mucosa, the endometrium with tubular glands lined by simple columnar epithelium.  The endometrium undergoes extensive changes during the menstrual cycle.

The cervix and vagina represent the distal portion of the reproductive tract, lined by stratified squamous epithelium.

The placenta is an organ best understood as a specialized outgrowth of baby's body, connected by the umbilical cord.  In some ways, the placenta functions as an invasive parasite on mother's uterine tissues.

Within the placenta, baby's circulation remains closed, contained within vessels of the chorionic villi.  In contrast, mother's circulation is open, percolating through intervillous spaces.

The mammary gland is a compound alveolar gland embedded in substantial fibrous and adipose stroma, with multiple ducts to the nipple.


Comments and questions: dgking@siu.edu

SIUC / School of Medicine / Anatomy / David King

Last updated:  20 July 2010 / dgk