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About the Ovaries

The ovaries are 2 small glands located on either side of a woman's uterus. They are part of the female reproductive system. The ovaries:
  • Store and release eggs
    The ovaries of a newborn baby girl contain about 1 million eggs, or ova. But, it isn't until puberty that these eggs begin to be released. Usually, after a girl reaches puberty, one egg is released from one of her ovaries each month until she begins menopause. The released egg enters the fallopian tube, where it travels towards the uterus.

    If the egg joins with sperm in the fallopian tube and is fertilized, it may attach to the inner lining of the uterus and begin to develop into a baby.

    If the egg is not fertilized, it washes away with blood and tissue that grows on the inside walls of the uterus each month – this process is otherwise known as a menstrual period.
  • Produce female sex hormones
    The ovaries produce the female sex hormones—estrogen and progesterone, which help control the menstrual cycle, breast development, and other changes that girls go through during puberty.

Normal Puberty in the Girl
At some point, usually after a girl's 8th birthday, puberty begins when the hypothalamus releases gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH). When GnRH reaches her pituitary gland, it stimulates the pituitary to release two more hormones—luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).

These hormones (LH and FSH) go to the ovaries and trigger the production of the female sex hormones—estrogen and progesterone. These hormones are then responsible for the characteristic changes that a girl goes through during puberty. These changes include:

  • Breasts—in most girls, puberty starts with breast growth
  • Hair—soft hair starts to grow in the pubic area and will eventually become thick and curly. Hair will also grow under the arms and on the legs
  • Body shape—body shape changes with widening of the hips and narrowing of the waist. The body also begins to build up fat in the stomach, buttocks, and legs.
  • Skin—the skin may get oilier and the girl may sweat more. In addition, acne may develop and is normal during this time when hormone levels are high.
  • Menstruation—the menstrual cycle, or "period" begins with most girls getting their periods between 9 and 16 years of age. This signals that the ovaries have begun to release eggs.

Adrenal Hyperplasia, Congenital
Germ Cell Tumors, Extracranial
Germ Cell Tumors, Ovarian
Kallmann Syndrome
McCune Albright Syndrome
Mullerian Aplasia
Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)
Precocious Puberty
Primary Amenorrhea
Turner Syndrome
  There are other rare conditions of the ovaries. To find more information about some of these conditions, use the section of this site called Rare Diseases A to Z.

If your child has been diagnosed with a condition of her ovaries, the doctor may recommend one or more of the following tests. For other tests and diagnostic procedures use the section of this site called Medical Tests A to Z.
Abdominal Ultrasound
CT Scan of the Head and Face
Endometrial Biopsy
Follicle-Stimulating Hormone
Genetic Testing
Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG)
Luteinizing Hormone
Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) of the Head
Pelvic Ultrasound
Thyroid Hormone Tests
Thyroid-Stimulating Hormone (TSH)


This listing provides you with Internet sites that are sponsored by government agencies or are well-known and credible national organizations.

» Go to the Ovaries Resource Directory


Last modified on: 30 June 2015