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The ovaries are two small, oval-shaped organs that form part of the female reproductive system. They are in the lower part of the tummy (abdomen), which is known as the pelvis.
Each month, in women of childbearing age, one of the ovaries produces an egg. The egg passes down the fallopian tube to the womb (uterus). If the egg is not fertilised by a sperm, it passes out of the womb and is shed, along with the lining of the womb, as part of the monthly period.
The ovaries also produce the female sex hormones oestrogen and progesterone. As a woman nears the menopause (‘change of life’), the ovaries make less of these hormones and periods gradually stop.
Other organs are very close to the ovaries (see diagram below). These include:
The ovaries and their surrounding structures
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Side view of the abdomen, showing the peritoneum surrounding the abdominal organs
Content last reviewed: 1 February 2011
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