5 Facts About Fallopian Tubes
Your fallopian tubes are one of the crucial parts of your reproductive system - but how often do you give them any thought? We’re giving these little tubes their time in the spotlight with five key facts you need to know about the fallopian tubes. Read on to find out more about the small but mighty fallopian tubes…
1. The fallopian tubes aren’t attached to your ovaries
First things first, let's take a look at the anatomy of the fallopian tubes. If you’ve ever seen a diagram of the female reproductive system, you’ll have noticed two long, curved tubes, one extending out from either side of the uterus. These are your fallopian tubes, otherwise known as uterine tubes, and the fallopian tubes’ function is to carry eggs from an ovary to the uterus.
However, the anatomy of the fallopian tube is actually a little more complex than you might think. In fact, our fallopian tubes and ovaries aren’t stuck together like we see in the diagrams! Instead, finger-like tendrils called fimbriae reach out from the fallopian tube toward the ovary and catch the egg cell when it’s released.
The egg cell then travels down the main channel of the tube called the ampulla - this is where fertilization can happen if the egg cell happens to meet a sperm cell. The fertilized egg cell then continues its journey to the uterus for implantation, after which it grows into a fetus.
If the egg cell isn’t fertilized then the egg cell dies off within 24 hours and hormonal changes cause the uterus lining to shed which is when you get your period and a new cycle begins again! Phew! There’s a lot going on in those little tubes!
2. You don’t always ovulate on the same side
So, every month the ovaries release an egg into the fallopian tubes to be carried into your uterus - but did you know that it doesn’t happen on both sides every month?
There are lots of follicles in both ovaries that could become mature eggs, but typically only one egg becomes mature and is released per cycle. We say typically because sometimes more than one egg is released (known as hyperovulation). Fun fact: this is how fraternal twins are made!
The ovaries and tubes don’t take turns doing this, so it’s not as simple as the left side one month and the right side the next - but it’s not also completely random. There is evidence to suggest that the right side is slightly more dominant, meaning that the right fallopian tube will do more work than the left side over the course of your life. If you experience ovulation pain - a one-sided pain in your lower abdomen - this can be an indication of which side is doing the work that cycle!
3. Egg cells sometimes implant in the fallopian tubes
Sometimes when an egg is fertilized in the fallopian tube, it doesn’t make it all the way along the tube, and to the uterus. Instead, eggs sometimes implant in the fallopian tube itself. When this happens it’s called an ectopic pregnancy, sometimes known as a “fallopian tube pregnancy”.
Ectopic pregnancies are not viable and in some cases can actually be life-threatening. Not every ectopic pregnancy will have symptoms, and you may only discover your pregnancy is an ectopic one during a routine scan. Fortunately, ectopic pregnancies are relatively rare, but it’s important to know what to look out for. Read our post on ectopic pregnancy to find out more.
4. Fallopian tubes can get blocked
Tubes can get blocked for a variety of reasons, including:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection that can affect your womb, fallopian tubes or ovaries and which, if left untreated, can be serious
- Sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia
- Endometriosis is an often painful condition where tissue that’s similar to the lining of your uterus grows outside the uterus in your ovaries, fallopian tubes, or abdominal cavity
- Previous abdominal surgery
- Hydrosalpinx, a fluid buildup, and dilation of the end of the tube
The most common symptoms of blocked fallopian tubes are pain in the pelvis or belly, which may be worse around your period. It can be difficult to pinpoint the fallopian tubes as the source of pain, so it’s best to get any unusual symptoms checked out by your healthcare provider.
Many women don’t discover they have blocked fallopian tubes until they’re trying to conceive. That’s because the blockage makes it more difficult for sperm to get to the eggs, and for a fertilized egg to travel to the uterus, both of which can make it more difficult to get pregnant.
If your fallopian tubes are blocked due to small amounts of scar tissue or adhesions, it may be possible to remove the blockage and fully open up the tubes. It can be more difficult or even impossible to do so if you have more serious scarring, but your OB-GYN will be able to talk this through with you if you have any questions or concerns about blocked fallopian tubes.
5. You can still get pregnant even if you only have one fallopian tube
As we covered above, there are some things that can damage and affect the function of our fallopian tubes. The good news is that only having one fallopian tube doesn’t usually affect your chances of getting pregnant. That’s because an egg that’s released from one ovary can travel down the fallopian tube on the other side!
Fallopian tubes aren’t fixed in place, so when one tube is missing, the other can travel over to the opposite ovary to pick up an egg from there. How amazing is that? It will then travel down the tube and continue its journey to your uterus. Business as usual then!
This means you don’t need to worry about your chances of getting pregnant being halved if you’re missing a fallopian tube, assuming everything else is working normally. Everyone’s fertility journey is different though, and there are other factors like age cycle regularity that can affect your chances of conceiving, so you should always speak to your doctor after your operation to discuss your personal circumstances.
Get to know your body better
Thanks for reading up on the fascinating fallopian tubes. One of the best ways to get better acquainted with your fertility journey is through cycle tracking. This helps you to understand what’s normal for your body. With Natural Cycles you can keep track of the changes happening in your cycle AND plan or prevent pregnancy completely hormone-free. Find out more about how Natural Cycles works and get started today!