The reproductive structures that evolved in land animals allow males and females to mate, fertilize internally, and support the growth and development of offspring. Gametogenesis, the production of sperm (spermatogenesis) and eggs (oogenesis), takes place through the process of meiosis.
The male and female reproductive cycles are controlled by hormones released from the hypothalamus and anterior pituitary and hormones from reproductive tissues and organs. The hypothalamus monitors the need for FSH and LH production and release from the anterior pituitary. FSH and LH affect reproductive structures to cause the formation of sperm and the preparation of eggs for release and possible fertilization. In the male, FSH and LH stimulate Sertoli cells and interstitial cells of Leydig in the testes to facilitate sperm production. The Leydig cells produce testosterone, which also is responsible for the secondary sexual characteristics of males. In females, FSH and LH cause estrogen and progesterone to be produced. They regulate the female reproductive cycle, which is divided into the ovarian cycle and the menstrual cycle.
Human pregnancy begins with fertilization of an egg and proceeds through the three trimesters of gestation. The first trimester lays down the basic structures of the body, including the limb buds, heart, eyes, and the liver. The second trimester continues the development of all of the organs and systems. The third trimester exhibits the greatest growth of the fetus and culminates in labor and delivery. The labor process has three stages (contractions, delivery of the fetus, and expulsion of the placenta), each propelled by hormones.
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