An ovary is an egg-producing reproductive organ found in female organisms. It is often found in pairs as part of the vertebrate female reproductive system. Ovaries in females are homologous to testes in males. The term gonads refers to the ovaries in females and testes in males.
Ovaries are oval shaped and, in the human, measure approximately 3 cm x 1.5 cm x 1.5 cm. The ovary (for a given side) is located in the lateral wall of the pelvis in a region called the ovarian fossa. The fossa usually lies beneath the external iliac artery and in front of the ureter and the internal iliac artery.
In the human the paired ovaries lie within the pelvic cavity, on either side of the uterus, to which they are attached via a fibrous cord called the ovarian ligament. The ovaries are uncovered in the peritoneal cavity but are tethered to the body wall via the suspensory ligament of the ovary. The part of the broad ligament of the uterus that covers the ovary is known as the mesovarium.
There are two extremities to the ovary:
The end to which the uterine tube attach is called the tubal extremity.
The other extremity is called the uterine extremity. It points downward, and it is attached to the uterus via the ovarian ligament.
Vessels and nerves
Each ovary receives blood from the ovarian artery, which arises directly from the anterior abdominal aorta and the ovarian branch of the uterine artery that enters the ovary by way of the broad ligament and thus the mesovarium. The right ovarian vein drains to the inferior vena cava and the left ovarian vein drains to the left renal vein. The ovarian artery and vein are within the suspensory ligament of the ovary (infundibulopelvic ligament). Sources of innervation include the ovarian plexus.
The outermost layer is the continuation of the peritoneum, misleadingly called germinal epithelium.
The tunica albuginea covers the cortex.
The ovarian cortex consists of ovarian follicles and stroma in between them. Included in the follicles are the cumulus oophorus, membrana granulosa (and the granulosa cells inside it), corona radiata, zona pellucida, and primary oocyte. The zona pellucida, theca of follicle, antrum and liquor folliculi are also contained in the follicle. Also in the cortex is the corpus luteum derived from the follicles.
The innermost layer is the ovarian medulla. It can be hard to distinguish between the cortex and medulla, but follicles are usually not found in the medulla.
If the egg fails to release from the follicle in the ovary an ovarian cyst may form. Small ovarian cysts are common in healthy women. Some women have more follicles than usual (polycystic ovary syndrome), which inhibits the follicles to grow normally and this will cause cycle irregularities.