What are ovaries?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

The ovaries are a pair of organs in the female reproductive system. They are located in the pelvis, one on each side of the uterus. The uterus is the hollow, pear-shaped organ where a baby grows. Each ovary is about the size and shape of an almond. The ovaries produce eggs and female hormones. Hormones are chemicals that control the way certain cells or organs function.

Every month, during a woman's menstrual cycle, an egg grows inside an ovary. It grows in a tiny sac called a follicle. When an egg matures, the sac breaks open to release the egg. The egg travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus for fertilization. Then the sac dissolves. The empty sac becomes corpus luteum. Corpus luteum makes hormones that help prepare for the next egg.

The ovaries are the main source of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. These hormones affect:

  • The way breasts and body hair grow
  • Body shape
  • The menstrual cycle
  • Pregnancy

This answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.

Dr. Julia Schlam Edelman
OBGYN (Obstetrician & Gynecologist)

The role of the ovaries changes over time, from birth to the postmenopause years. When puberty arrives, the ovaries become the conductor of the childbearing orchestra. They produce key female hormones (estrogen and progesterone) and are responsible for releasing eggs. Throughout life, the ovaries also produce the male hormone testosterone, which contributes to a healthy woman's sex drive. Even in postmenopause the ovaries continue to produce small amounts of testosterone.

The ovaries are two almond-shaped glands in the pelvis (area between the hips). They are located on each side of the uterus, also called the womb. The ovaries make female hormones and produce eggs. The ovaries are part of a woman’s reproductive system (sex organs) and endocrine system.

The female reproductive system includes: the breasts, the uterus, the inner lining of the uterus (endometrium), the cervix, ovaries, Fallopian tubes, vagina and the external part of the female reproductive system (vulva). The endocrine system is made up of glands that produce hormones. Ovaries make the hormones estrogen and progesterone. The endocrine system controls mood, growth and metabolism. That is why in most cases when women have a hysterectomy the ovaries are not removed.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiologist (Heart Specialist)

The ovaries are located on either side of the uterus, in a woman’s lower abdomen. Watch the animation to learn more about the ovaries.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.