The urogenital system is a part human and some animal anatomy that deals with both reproduction and fluid waste removal. It is in essence a combination of the genital and urinary systems; they’re usually grouped together because they often use some of the same parts and overlap when it comes to certain basic functionalities. Doctors and other medical professionals who deal with one system often deal with both simply as a matter of convenience. There are some important differences when it comes the systems of males versus those of females, but most are superficial. The systems look different, but they usually work in nearly the same way.
Understanding the Genital and Urinary Systems Generally
At least from a biological perspective, the reproductive system is primarily designed for procreation whereas the urinary system is responsible for the formation and elimination of urine. On the face of things, there aren’t many similarities between these functions. The commonality comes when the parts are viewed anatomically. In both males and females, the urine actually escapes the body through the genital system. As such, the systems are related; getting to the urinary tract involves passing through or at least coming right up against either the penis or the vagina.
The systems also share common original tissue from the fetal stage in both sexes, and in most cases are so connected that problems in one place often spread to the other. Many sexually transmitted diseases can impact the urinary system and, by extension, many of the internal organs; things like urinary tract infections, similarly, can spread to the genitals, making sexual intercourse uncomfortable if not entirely impossible for the duration of the infection.
Primary Urinary System Components
The urinary systems of both males and females are almost identical, and the goal is usually twofold: first, create urine, and second, get it out of the body. The process begins in the two kidneys, which are the main organs of the urogenital system. When blood passes through the kidneys, harmful substances and waste products are usually filtered out and removed in the form of urine. The kidneys usually also help maintain a balance of water and salt in the body while producing the hormone erythropoietin, which promotes red blood cell production.
Each kidney is connected to a ureter that is about 10 to 12 inches long (25.4 cm to 30.5 cm). These are the main way that urine travels from the kidneys down to the bladder. The bladder temporarily stores urine before excreting it out through the urethra in a process known as urination. Only in actual excretion do the differences between the sexes become apparent. A female urethra is typically shorter that a male urethra, and is used only for urination. It sits between the labia just above the vagina, but it plays no reproductive role. On the other hand, the male urethra usually is longer and acts as a passageway for not just urine, but also prostate secretions and sperm. It’s only used for one thing at a time in most cases, but it is more utilitarian than the female version simply by nature of how much demand there is for it.
The Male Genitals
The primary male reproductive system components include testes, seminal vesicles, seminal ducts, the prostate gland, and the penis. Testes are responsible for the formation of sperm and for the production of male hormones, also known as androgens. Each testicle is enclosed in the scrotum for protection and regulation of heat. Secretions from the prostate gland and the seminal vesicles make up semen, a viscous fluid that helps the passage of sperm through the urethra. The penis is the external male sex organ that contains the urethra through which both urine and sperm flow.
The Female Reproductive System
Compared to the male system, most of which is visible externally, the female system is almost entirely self-contained. Ovaries produce eggs, which are dropped into the uterus once a month during ovulation. The uterus is a hollow organ where implantation of the fertilized egg usually occurs, and where a fetus develops and grows into a baby. The vagina is a muscular tube that receives the penis during intercourse. The urethra isn’t technically part of this system, though it usually sits just above the vaginal opening.