Did you know where babies are developed? If you are on your gruelling trying-to-conceive (TTC) journey, it is essential for you to understand the role of an important structure in your body for the preparation of pregnancy, during pregnancy and childbirth.
If conception takes place, the fertilized egg (or blastocyst) is implanted in a structure inside the female reproductive system called the uterus. The uterus, or also known as the womb, is shaped like an upside-down pear and is located above the bladder and in between the female’s uterine tubes. It is also connected to the fallopian tubes, the cervix and the vagina.
Roles of the uterus
This unique and special female organ is fundamental for the proper development of a baby, or named as a fetus. The uterus has three main functions that aid in the development of the growing fetus namely:
- providing mechanical protection to help prevent physical damage to the fetus.
- providing nutritional support, helping the fetus gain the nutrients it needs for proper growth.
- providing waste removal, helping to keep the fetal environment clean
The structure of the uterus
The uterus is made up of three layers of tissue which play unique roles during pregnancy and childbirth. They are known as:
- the endometrium, which is the thinner, inner layer of the uterine wall that contains a lot of glands and arteries.
- The myometrium, which is a thicker middle muscular layer covering the outside of the uterus. It is located in between the perimetrium and the endometrium, and serves as an extremely important feature in providing the muscular contractions needed for childbirth.
- the perimetrium is a thin lining connecting the uterus to the body lining.
Every month, the endometrium would grow thicker as a preparation for pregnancy. During this time, the endometrium will be enriched with tiny blood vessels and glands as it awaits for implantation to occur.
When fertilized egg is successfully implanted into the endometrium lining, the uterus helps to provide it with consistent flow of nutrition through the extensive network of blood vessels. The uterus would continuously help to nourish the fertilized egg as it grows into a full-grown fetus and hold it until it becomes mature enough for birth. Among the amazing things about the uterus is that it can flexibly stretch and grow to accommodate the growing fetus just like a balloon.
During childbirth, the uterus thick muscular layer, the myometrium, functions in pushing out the baby and the placenta through the birth canal and out of the vaginal opening.
The uterine cycle
What would happen in the uterus when there is no developing fetus? Each month when the ovary releases an unfertilized egg, or oocyte, that has the potential to become a baby if it is fertilized by a male’s sperm, the uterus would prepare itself for the possibility of fertilization.
If fertilization does not occur, the build-up of blood vessels and tissues on the endometrium becomes unnecessary and is shed as your menstrual period. Menstrual flow is made up of the cells that slough away from the endometrial lining, mixed with blood from the little blood vessels that surrounded the uterine glands. The uterus will restart its preparation over again for the following month. This process of preparing for implantation each month is called the uterine cycle, and it involves a series of changes in the structure of the uterine wall.