What is the Urethra?
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The urethra is a tube that connects the bladder to the urinary opening for the removal of urine from the body of both females and males. It is the vessel through which urine passes after leaving the bladder, and the conduit in men for semen during sexual intercourse.
Females use their urethra only for urinating, but males use their urethra for both urination and ejaculation. The urethral sphincters are two muscles used to control the exit of urine in the urinary bladder through the urethra, and allow for voluntary control over urination (e.g., muscles that allow a person to “hold” or release their urine, or pee).
In the human male, the urethra is around 7-8 inches long and opens at the end of the penis. This is the hole at the tip of the penis that both urine and semen are released from.
The urethra is divided into four parts in men, named after the location where they are found:
It is important to note that the urethra is different from the ureter, which are muscular tubes that move urine from the kidneys to the urinary bladder. Though they sound similar, they are different.
Nuts & Bolts: Urethra
To learn more about, please visit our series of posts about male reproduction and contraception:
Bladder - a hollow muscular organ in humans and other vertebrates that stores urine from the kidneys before disposal by urination
Penis - the male genital organ of higher vertebrates, carrying the duct for the transfer of sperm during copulation. In humans and most other mammals, it consists largely of erectile tissue and serves also for the elimination of urine.
Prostate - a walnut-sized gland located between the bladder and the penis that secretes fluid that nourishes and protects sperm
Prostatic - of, relating to, or affecting the prostate gland
Semen - the male reproductive fluid, containing spermatozoa in suspension
Urine - watery, typically yellowish fluid stored in the bladder and discharged through the urethra, also known as pee
For additional terminology related to male contraception and the male reproductive system, please visit our glossary:
Marvalee H. Wake (15 September 1992). Hyman's Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy. University of Chicago Press. pp. 583–. ISBN 978-0-226-87013-7. Retrieved 6 May 2013.
Jung, Junyang; Anh, Hyo Kwang; Huh, Youngbuhm (September 2012). "Clinical and Functional Anatomy of the Urethral Sphincter". International Neurourology Journal. 16 (3): 102–106. doi:10.5213/inj.2012.16.3.102. PMC 3469827. PMID 23094214.
Karam, I.; Moudouni, S.; Droupy, S.; Abd-Almasad, I.; Uhl, J. F.; Delmas, V. (April 2005). "The structure and innervation of the male urethra: histological and immunohistochemical studies with three-dimensional reconstruction". Journal of Anatomy. 206 (4): 395–403. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7580.2005.00402.x. PMC 1571491. PMID 15817107.
Standring, Susan, ed. (2016). "Bladder, prostate and urethra". Gray's anatomy : the anatomical basis of clinical practice (41st ed.). Philadelphia. pp. 1261–1266. ISBN 9780702052309. OCLC 920806541.
Young, Barbara; O'Dowd, Geraldine; Woodford, Phillip (2013). "Male reproductive system". Wheater's functional histology: a text and colour atlas (6th ed.). Philadelphia: Elsevier. p. 349. ISBN 9780702047473.
Sadley, TW (2019). "Bladder and urethra". Langman's medical embryology (14th ed.). Philadelphia: Wolters Kluwer. pp. 263–66. ISBN 9781496383907.
"Urethral stricture". Mayo Clinic. 12 December 2018. Retrieved 15 May 2020.
Marx, Franz Josef; Karenberg, Axel (2010). "Uro-words making history: Ureter and urethra". The Prostate. 70 (9): 952–958. doi:10.1002/pros.21129. PMID 20166127. S2CID 32778667.
For additional publications related to male contraception and the male reproductive system, please visit our publications page:
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