What is Ovary? Definition and Functions

Ovaries are a pair of female sex glands, which are located in the pelvic cavity. Their importance is derived from their role in producing both the female sex hormones that control the reproduction and the female gametes that are fertilized to form embryos.


The ovaries are oval-shaped and about the size of a large grape. They consist of stroma (soft tissue) and cortical substance where follicles at different stages of development and regression are placed.


The ovaries produce steroid hormones. The follicular part of the ovary mostly produces estrogen. Also, androgen and progestin are produced in the follicular part of the ovary.

The ovaries function cyclically. One of the follicles while maturing becomes dominant and prevents others from maturing. The ovum matures in the dominant follicle. When the follicle completely matures, it bursts and the egg cell moves through fallopian tubes to the uterus. The process is called ovulation. If the egg is fertilized by a sperm, the egg implants into the lining of the uterus and begin to develop into a fetus. If it is not fertilized, it is shed from the body along with the lining of the uterus during menstruation.

The menstrual cycle lasts about 28 days (it may vary from 25 up to 31 days).

The ovaries go through age-related changes. There are about a million of the gametes in the ovary of the female fetus at the 10th week. It is the maximal possible number. Eggs are reducing in number throughout life. The reproductive age for women is shorter than for men (15-45). Pregnancy may take place during this period when the egg is released cyclically. Eggs are limited in women while the sperm cells are produced constantly in men. The development of the female reproductive system begins in the womb.

During menopause, the ovaries stop releasing eggs and producing sex hormones.

Ovary Removal Surgery

The ovary removal surgery oophorectomy is necessary in such cases as a cyst, inflammation of ovaries, ovarian cancer, prevention of cancer complications, or in combination with the uterus removal. The ovaries removal is equal to castration for men.


Ovarian Transplantation

Cryopreservation is the only possible way to perform the transplantation of the ovary. It is usually done to restore reproductive function after surgeries (mainly ovarian cancer). A part of the ovary is removed and frozen. As the patient is cured, the ovary can be transplanted back. Thus, the woman restores her ability to have children. Doctors believe that this procedure may cause the recurrence of cancer. But recent research has proved that there is no such risk.

Ovarian Diseases

Nowadays ovarian diseases are common among many women. Environment, stress, and other factors reduce immunity. But one of the most common reasons is rare visits to a specialist.

The Most Common Ovarian Diseases

Adnexitis is an inflammation of the fallopian tubes and ovaries. The main pathogens causing adnexitis are staphylococcus aureus, hemolytic streptococcus, Proteus, Chlamydia, gonococci. It may be caused by any infectious disease since it weakens the immune system. Sexual intercourse may cause this disease. Especially if sexual intercourse happens during menstruation or right after abortion (since it is stressful for the female body) or after any other surgery connected with the reproductive system. It is treatable.


The polycystic ovarian syndrome is a common disease characterized by the formation of cysts in one of the ovaries. If it is left untreated, the polycystic ovarian syndrome may lead to infertility and uterus bleeding. The risk of cancer is high. The level of the male hormone in the blood increases. Thus, drugs are used in order to reduce the male hormone. Sometimes, it is necessary to lose some weight in order to treat this disease. Stimulating ovulation is also necessary. If treatment does not work, then surgery is performed.


Ovarian tumors develop in the ovary tissue. Tumors may be benign or malignant. Benign tumors sometimes develop into malignant tumors which do not promise anything good. The main factors leading to the development of tumors are heredity, hormonal disorders, sexually transmitted diseases, abortion, a long period of time without being pregnant, the early or late beginning of sexual relations. The removal of tumors is necessary. But of course, it should be done timely. If any of the risk factors mentioned above are familiar to you, it is necessary to take care of your health. As ancient and contemporary medicine says – prevention is better than cure!