The uterus or the womb is a major organ in the female reproductive system. It is connected to the cervix, which leads to the vagina and fallopian tubes. Complete fetal development during the gestation period occurs inside the uterus.
Humans have a simplex-shaped uterus, which means that the entire womb is fused into a single functioning organ.
Located in the pelvis, the uterus has two distinct parts, the cervix uteri or the “neck” of the organ, and the corpus uteri, or the body. It also consists of three layers, which include the endometrium (innermost layer) that lines the uterine cavity and periodically builds a lining of blood cells, which sheds if the woman is not pregnant. The monthly shedding of this blood lining is known as the menstrual period.
The second layer of the uterus is known as the myometrium, which is made up of smooth muscle while the outermost layer is called the perimetrium.
Aside from gestation and menstrual cycle, the uterus also plays a major role in sexual response. The organ directs blood flow to the pelvic area and the external genitalia during sexual arousal.
Common Uterine Problems and Conditions
Pathological conditions of the uterus can partially or completely affect the organ, as well as its functions and roles in the female reproductive system.
Uterine prolapse - A form of female genital prolapse, this condition is the direct result when the muscles or ligaments that are designed to support the uterus become weak and can no longer hold the uterus in place. Thus, it slips from its normal position into the birth canal.
Endometrial cancer - This form of malignant neoplasm affects the endometrial layer of the uterus. Symptoms include vaginal bleeding outside of a menstrual period, pain during sexual intercourse or urination, and pelvic pain.
Uterine fibroids. These benign tumors are made of smooth muscle and grow inside the uterus. Symptoms include painful or heavy menstrual periods, urinary incontinence, and lower back pain.
Endometritis. This refers to the inflammation of the endometrium often caused by an infection.
Hematometra. This condition involves the retention or collection of blood in the uterus and is often caused by a transverse vaginal septum or imperforate hymen.
Common Uterine Procedures and Surgeries
Hysterectomy. This refers to the partial or complete removal of the uterus and neighboring structures, such as the cervix, ovaries, and fallopian tubes. It is often prescribed for patients with serious uterine conditions that cannot be addressed or managed by conservative treatment methods, such as medication or therapy.
Myomectomy. This is the surgical removal of one or more uterine fibroids. It is the preferred treatment for this condition as it leaves the uterus intact, which means that it does not affect a woman’s ability to conceive.
Endometrial ablation. This ablates or destroys the endometrial layer of the uterus and is typically prescribed to female patients with heavy or prolonged menstrual bleeding caused by benign (non-cancerous) conditions.