Knowing your precious tubes
A normal female reproductive system has two fallopian tubes on both sides of the uterus. The fallopian tubesareamong the essential reproductive organs in women. They are slender tubes which pass the egg from the ovary to the uterus. The fallopian tubesare approximately 10 cm in length and 1 cm in diameter. They can be divided into 3 parts; the first segment, closest to the womb is called ‘isthmus’, the second segment is ‘ampulla’ which is the common site for fertilization. While the segment near the ovary is ‘infundibulum’.
Here are some of the important points on why healthy fallopian tubes play a vital role in fertility:
- Fallopian tubes capture the eggs released by the ovary
Theinfundibulum, the most end of the fallopian tube, is equipped with small, finger-like projections known as fimbriae. Although there is a tiny gap between a fallopian tube and its corresponding ovary as they are not directly connected to each other, but with the help of the finger-like projections, the ovulated egg will be swept and guided into the tube and prevent the eggs from wandering off somewhere else.
- Site for fertilisation
Contrary to popular beliefs, the fallopian tube is where the sperm would typically meet up with the egg to be fertilized. The ampulla which is the longest and widest part of the tube is where usually the fertilisation happens!
- Fallopian tubes help the fertilised egg to be implanted into the womb
The fallopian tubes have the ability to contract and relax, a process known as peristalsis. It helps to move the ovulated egg further down the tube as well as to transport the fertilised egg to the womb. The inner side of the fallopian tube is also equipped with hair-like structures known as cilia which help to move the process along.
However, the fallopian tube can be blocked or damaged by several conditionssuch as:
- Sexually transmitted infection (pelvic inflammatory disease)
- Ruptured appendix
- Previous surgery in lower abdomen
In case of sexually transmitted infection, it is advisable to seek medical help if you constantly having vaginal discharge that is greenish or deep yellow with fowl odour or itchiness. Early detection and treatment of sexually transmitted infection will help to prevent chronic infection. Chronic infection is when continuous inflammation happens leading to scarring and adhesion of tube with surrounding structure. Thiswill cause complete blockage of the tube and result in infertility.
Consequence of damaged fallopian tube
In case of partially occluded fallopian tube, the sperm will still be able to pass through it and fertilisation can occur but the fertilised egg will not be able to pass through the uterus. Therefore, pregnancy outside the womb will happen. This condition is known as ‘ectopic pregnancy’.
Ectopic pregnancy is a medical emergency as the fertilized egg will be implanted in the tube and grow bigger like a normal pregnancy. However, problem arise as the tube has small diameter and to certain extend, the tube will rupture and massive bleeding will occur inside the abdomen. This is a life-threatening condition. Therefore, early medical treatment is required.
The treatment is usually done by using a scope to remove the blockage. Surgery to repair the tube can alsobe done but the chance of having mislocatedpregnancy again will be high. Therefore, in-vitro fertilization (IVF) is usually recommended.
In order to prevent gynecological diseases, you should have a gynecological examination every year, for early detection of the disease and timely treatment.
How to prevent infection?
- Practice safe sex. Do not practice multiple sexual partner and ask about the partner’s sexual history. The risk is increased if the partner has multiple sexual partner.
- Talk to your doctor about contraception. Using condom can reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infection (STI). Birth control pill does not reduce the risk of getting STI.
- If you are at risk of an STI, make an appointment with your doctor for testing. Set up a regular screening schedule with your doctor if needed. Early treatment of an STI gives you the best chance of avoiding pelvic inflammatory disorder (PID).
- Request that your partner be tested. If you have PID or an STI, advise your partner to be tested and treated. This can prevent the spread of STIs and possible recurrence of PID.
Don’t douche. Douching will destroy the good bacteria in your vagina and makes you prone to infection.