The Gonads (Ovaries / Testes)
The gonads are the primary reproductive organs. In males these are the testes, and in females these are the ovaries. These organs are responsible for producing the sperm and ova, but they also secrete hormones and are considered to be endocrine glands.
Male sex hormones, as a group, are called androgens. The principal androgen is testosterone, which is secreted by the testes. Production of testosterone begins during fetal development, continues for a short time after birth, nearly ceases during childhood, and then resumes at puberty. This steroid hormone is responsible for:
- The growth and development of the male reproductive structures
- Increased skeletal and muscular growth
- Enlargement of the larynx accompanied by voice changes
- Growth and distribution of body hair
- Increased male sexual drive
Two groups of female sex hormones are produced in the ovaries, the estrogens and progesterone. These steroid hormones contribute to the development and function of the female reproductive organs and sex characteristics. At the onset of puberty, estrogens promote:
- The development of the breasts
- Distribution of fat evidenced in the hips, legs, and breast
- Maturation of reproductive organs such as the uterus and vagina
Progesterone causes the uterine lining to thicken in preparation for pregnancy. Together, progesterone and estrogens are responsible for the changes that occur in the uterus during the female menstrual cycle.
Ailments of the gonads are not treated at the Northern Alberta Endocrine Surgery Centre unless they are caused by an overlying endocrine problem.