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What We’ve Learned About Fallopian Transport So Far

All about fallopian transport and its importance in the female reproductive system.

September 2, 2021
Allaina Wagner

If eyes are the window to the soul, then fallopian tubes are the roadway to life. With such an important role in the body, fallopian tubes are the key to reproduction, as they transport fertilized eggs to the uterus to implant and develop. Recently, more and more research has been published about the role of fallopian tubes in the body and their part in reproduction, providing more insight into just how significant the fallopian tubes and fallopian transport can be.

Woman and child viewing female reproductive chart
While very rare, some women are born without either one or both of their fallopian tubes. This condition can make it extremely hard to conceive naturally, but it is possible both naturally and through reproductive technologies like IVF.

Fallopian Transport in the Body

The role fallopian tubes play on reproduction and their role in the body

You might remember from your junior high health class -- an old-school diagram of the female reproductive system, with the system vaguely resembling the form of an antlered animal. On that mammalian diagram was likely the uterus, ovaries, vagina, and fallopian tubes. While many think of the uterus or the vagina as the primary structure for female reproduction, the fallopian tubes play a major role in the creation and transportation of a viable embryo.

The fallopian tubes, the two thin tubes that connect the ovaries to the uterus, allow eggs to transport from each of the ovaries into the uterus. In acting as a courier of the eggs into the uterus each month, the fallopian tubes make it possible for a person’s eggs to be fertilized by sperm.

Fallopian tubes are also an important structure for people looking to have surgery to eliminate the chance of getting pregnant. Tubal ligation, or ‘getting your tubes tied,’ involves the blocking or cutting of the fallopian tubes in order to restrict the transport of eggs from the ovaries to the uterus.

Many women opt for this surgery as a means of birth control, as it completely eliminates the possibility of becoming pregnant. The surgery is safe and does not cause any long-term damage to the reproductive system, and patients who choose tubal ligation still have periods and can have sex normally.

This minor surgery is reversible, but it greatly reduces patients’ chances of becoming pregnant when undone.

Pregnant woman holding stomach
By undergoing tubal ligation surgery, your fallopian tubes will either be cut or blocked, not tied like the popular phrase suggests.

Fallopian Transport’s Impact on Fertility

How malfunctioning fallopian tubes can lead to infertility

Tubal factor infertility, caused by the blocking of the fallopian tubes, accounts for around 25% of all cases of infertility in women. This condition manifests in many different ways, with some patients seeing the complete blockage of both of their fallopian tubes, some seeing only one being blocked, and others experiencing narrowed tubes due to scarring.

Part of why this condition is so common in cases of infertility is due to its ability to form as a result of a variety of causes. Tubal factor infertility can come about from infections either due to sexually transmitted diseases or other reasons, abdominal surgery, or endometriosis which can cause scarring in the tubes.

Pelvic inflammatory disease, which is diagnosed in about 5% of women in the United States, can also cause the formation of scar tissue on and around the inner lining of the tubes. This condition can also contribute to the partial or complete blockage of the tubes, making it even harder to conceive.

Woman holding menstrual cup with flowers
Fallopian tubes are essential for menstruation -- they are the mechanism responsible for moving the egg from the ovary to the uterus, which will shed its lining if the egg is not fertilized within a certain time frame.

Current and Future Research on Fallopian Transport

What researchers hope to discover about the role of the fallopian tubes in reproduction

Despite the emergence of assisted reproductive technologies in the past couple of decades, the role of fallopian tubes in reproduction have been overlooked in these artificial processes. While technologies like IVF are aimed towards women who have blocked, damaged, or absent fallopian tubes, very few technologies have been created to improve chances at conception by fixing the tubes.

Regardless of the lack of technology created to improve fallopian tube health, more research has been conducted on the body part in the past couple of years. One study from the Lundquist Institute found that motile cilia, an organelle that was thought to play an important part in gamete and embryo transport within the Fallopian tube, is essential for fertility.

The study utilized mice in their study and found that while motile cilia in most parts of the reproductive system are not essential for fertility, they are absolutely necessary in the distal end of the fallopian tubes. Without these organelle, which are such a microscopic and seemingly insignificant detail of the structure, infertility will occur.

This research, according to the study, helps to settle a longstanding scientific debate about the mechanisms in the fallopian tubes that promote gamete and embryo transport. This research has the potential to make a significant impact on how future research approaches the fallopian tubes, possibly using the result of this study to help with the development of artificial reproductive technology.

While still so much is unknown about the mechanisms of the fallopian tubes, and just how important their role in reproduction could potentially be, this research is a step in the right direction in understanding the female reproductive system and lowering the percentage of those dealing with infertility due to fallopian tube issues.

Woman sitting on windowsill
Always consult your doctor, fertility specialist, or gynecologist if you have any questions or concerns about your reproductive health.

The fallopian tubes, perhaps the unsung hero of the female reproductive system, play an enormous role in not only menstruation and other body regulation, but also fertility. With more research into their significance and impact on the body, more fertility issues can hopefully be solved.

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