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The uterus

The uterus, or womb, is where a baby grows during pregnancy. It is part of the female reproductive system, which also includes the ovaries, fallopian tubes, cervix (neck of the uterus), vagina (birth canal) and vulva (external genitals).

Shape and position in the body – The uterus is about the size and shape of a hollow, upside-down pear. It sits low in the abdomen (belly) between the bladder and rectum, and is joined to the vagina by the cervix. On either side of the uterus are the ovaries, which contain eggs (ova). The ovaries are connected to the uterus by the fallopian tubes.

Layers – The uterus has two layers. The myometrium is the outer layer of muscle tissue and makes up most of the uterus. The endometrium is the inner layer or lining.

Menstruation – Each month, from puberty to menopause, the endometrium becomes thicker to prepare for pregnancy. If no pregnancy occurs, some of the lining is shed and flows out of the body through the vagina. This flow is known as a monthly period (menstruation).

Menopause – The hormones oestrogen and progesterone control the release of eggs (ovulation) and the timing of menstruation. As you get older, the ovaries gradually produce less of these hormones. When the levels of oestrogen and progesterone fall low enough, periods become irregular and finally stop. This is known as menopause. After menopause, you can’t conceive a child naturally. The uterus also becomes smaller and the endometrium becomes thinner.

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This information is reviewed by

This information was last reviewed March 2021 by the following expert content reviewers: A/Prof Jim Nicklin, Director, Gynaecological Oncology, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, and Associate Professor Gynaecologic Oncology, The University of Queensland, QLD; Dr Robyn Cheuk, Senior Radiation Oncologist, Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital, QLD; Prof Michael Friedlander, Medical Oncologist, The Prince of Wales Hospital and Conjoint Professor of Medicine, The University of NSW, NSW; Kim Hobbs, Clinical Specialist Social Worker, Gynaecological Cancer, Westmead Hospital, NSW; Adele Hudson, Statewide Clinical Nurse Consultant, Gynaecological Oncology Service, Royal Hobart Hospital, TAS; Dr Anthony Richards, Gynaecological Oncologist, The Royal Women’s Hospital and Joan Kirner Women’s and Children’s Hospital, VIC; Georgina Richter, Gynaecological Oncology Clinical Nurse Consultant, Royal Adelaide Hospital, SA; Deb Roffe, 13 11 20 Consultant, Cancer Council SA.