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I’m Having a What?!

A PBL Case Study on the Female Reproductive System and Early Pregnancy


C. Nicole Sunnen
Department of Biological Sciences
University of the Sciences


In this problem-based learning (PBL) case study, a college student experiencing severe abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding is shocked to learn that she is suffering a miscarriage. Student teams embark on the iterative process of identifying learning issues and conducting research to find the necessary information to not only assess the probable cause(s) of her miscarriage, but also make recommendations as to how to prevent both unplanned pregnancies and miscarriages in the future. Originally designed for a lower-level undergraduate course in human anatomy, the case can easily be adapted for any course in anatomy and physiology, embryology, or developmental biology, or any other course that covers the reproductive system or early embryonic development.  It is designed to take less than three class hours, but can easily be expanded or contracted according to the learning goals of the instructor.


  • Identify major organs of the female reproductive system, their spatial relationships and general functions.
  • Predict ovulation day in female reproductive cycle, regardless of cycle length.
  • Determine when sexual intercourse is most likely (or nearly impossible) to result in pregnancy.
  • Identify major steps involved in early embryogenesis (from fertilization to classification as a fetus), including when and where they occur inside the female reproductive system.
  • Identify and use appropriate resources to find required information and problem-solve.
  • Practice team-work.
  • Integrate and analyze information from different sources to formulate conclusions and make recommendations.


Miscarriage; reproductive system; reproductive cycle; embryonic development; contraception; pregnancy; development; ovulation; fertilization; menstrual cycle; menstruation; embryogenesis;

Topical Areas


Educational Level

High school, Undergraduate lower division, Undergraduate upper division, Clinical education


PDF, Word

Type / Methods

Problem-Based Learning



Subject Headings

Anatomy  |   Biology (General)  |   Developmental Biology  |   Physiology  |  

Date Posted


Teaching Notes

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Supplemental Materials

For convenience, the worksheets in the case study handout are also available below in Microsoft Word format.

  Planning Worksheet
  Out-of-Class Worksheet
  Solution Worksheet

Answer Key

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