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What Is the Genitourinary System?

Men have very different reproductive systems than women, but the sexes share similar urinary systems.
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  • Written By: Tricia Ellis-Christensen
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 19 August 2014
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The term genitourinary system is the urinary and reproductive systems, which are often considered together because of their their proximity to each other.

The different parts of the urinary system in the body are somewhat similar in males and females. People of both genders have kidneys which process waste. They possess lines from the kidneys to the bladder, which are called ureters. In men and women, urine ultimately passes through the urethra, but this is where the differences really begin.

The urethra feeds through the shaft of the penis in men, but in women it is located near the opening of the vagina. In both male and female anatomy this tube from the bladder is still the means by which urine leaves the body. Location is a little different and somewhat defines why certain physical problems with the urinary tract are more likely to be associated with a specific gender.

It is easy to understand close proximity of the two systems when thinking about parts of the body like the urethra. It passes through the penis and is very close to the vagina, and these are vital parts of the reproductive system. Yet, unlike the relative similarities in the urinary system between genders, there is significant difference in what makes up male and female reproductive anatomy.

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In men, some of the principal parts of the reproductive system include the penis, testicles, epididymus, vas deferens, and prostate gland. Each of these plays a role in producing, transporting, adding fluid to, or ejaculating sperm from the body. Notably the urethra is part of this picture, since it helps to ejaculate sperm.

In women, the principal reproductive system parts, which are grouped within the overhead genitourinary system, include vagina, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and uterus. While in a healthy male, sperm can be produced at all times, possibilities for pregnancy and fertility are usually restricted to about once a month in ovulating females. Women tend to ovulate approximately once monthly in the middle of their menstrual cycle. This doesn’t mean they can’t have intercourse at any time like males, but it does mean the possibility of pregnancy is restricted to a few days each month. Theoretically, men could impregnate women daily.

Since there are close connections between urinary and reproductive systems in the genitourinary system, it is occasionally possible for illness in one system to affect the other. Enlargement of the prostate gland may cause difficulty in urination for men, for instance. A bladder infection in a woman could result in pain during intercourse, or infection with a sexually transmitted disease could migrate to the urinary tract. Lastly, severe dysfunction of kidneys in men or women may have an overall negative effect on the whole body.

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