Uterus (or womb) is a female reproductive organ in which a baby grows during pregnancy. The uterus is a muscular organ that is located in the pelvis, just behind the bladder. It is held in place by ligaments that attach it to the pelvic bones. The average size of a uterus is about 3 inches wide and 5 inches long.
The main function of the uterus is to provide a place for the developing fetus to grow and develop. The uterine walls are thick and muscular, which helps to protect the fetus from injury. The inside of the uterus is lined with a layer of tissue called the endometrium. This layer thickens each month during the menstrual cycle in preparation for pregnancy. If pregnancy does not occur, the endometrium is shed during menstruation.
The opening of the uterus, called the cervix, opens into the vagina. During childbirth, the baby passes through the cervix and out of the mother’s body through the vagina.
Conditions Affecting the Uterus
There are several conditions that can affect the uterus including:
- Fibroids: These are non-cancerous growths that can develop on the walls of the uterus. They are relatively common, affecting up to 40% of women over age 35. Fibroids can vary in size from very small (less than 1 cm) to large (more than 5 cm). They can cause heavy bleeding during menstruation, pain, and pressure on surrounding organs.
- Endometriosis: This condition occurs when tissue similar to that which lines the inside of the uterus grows outside of it. Endometriosis most commonly affects women in their 30s and 40s. It can cause pain, irregular bleeding, and fertility problems.
- Adenomyosis: This condition occurs when tissue similar to that which lines the inside of the uterus grows into its muscle wall. Adenomyosis often occurs in women who have had children, and can cause heavy bleeding during menstruation and pain in the lower abdomen or backache.
- Pelvic inflammatory disease: This is an infection of the reproductive organs that can damage tissues and organs involved in reproduction including fallopian tubes, ovaries, and even the lining of abdominal cavity (peritoneum). Pelvic inflammatory disease is often caused by sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia or gonorrhea but can also be caused by other infections such as bacteria from an intrauterine device (IUD).
Other Related Terms
Terms closely related to the term Uterus include the following:
- Endometrium: The tissue that lines the inside of the uterus.
- Myometrium: The muscle layer of the uterus.
- Cervix: The opening of the uterus that leads into the vagina.
- Vagina: The muscular tube that leads from the cervix to the outside of the body.
This image shows how often the term ‘Uterus’ is used in relation to other, similar birth terms:
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