What Is a Fallopian Tube? - Function, Obstruction & Definition

Instructor: Margaret Cunningham
This lesson will explore an important structure within the female reproductive system known as the fallopian tube. It will explain the function of the fallopian tubes and discuss several medical problems associated with this structure.

Introduction

All human babies - including you - start out as a tiny egg that must go on a long and complicated journey through the female reproductive system. First, the egg is created within the ovary, where it stays until ovulation occurs. When ovulation occurs, the egg is released from the ovary into the pelvic cavity. At this point in the journey the egg is vulnerable because it is no longer contained within the safe ovary. This is when the important structure known as the fallopian tube helps the egg out.

The fallopian tube, also known as the oviduct or uterine tube, is responsible for carrying the egg to the uterus. The fallopian tube has finger-like branches, called fimbriae, which reach out into the pelvic cavity and pick up the released egg. The egg is then brought into the fallopian tube where it will travel to the uterus.

Not only does the fallopian tube collect and transport the egg, it is also the location where fertilization occurs. Sperm cells that enter the reproductive system through the vagina travel to the fallopian tube where they fertilize the egg. The fertilized egg then continues its journey to the uterus where it will implant and safely develop into a baby.

Structures of the Female Reproductive System
fallopian tube

Medical Problems Associated with the Fallopian Tube

The fallopian tube is a crucial structure involved in successful reproduction and, like with all structures in the human body, sometimes problems occur that hinder the structure's ability to function properly. As you now know, the main function of the fallopian tube is to transport the egg from the ovary to the uterus. Unfortunately, there are several medical problems that can occur which cause the blockage of the fallopian tube and make it unable to transport the egg. Three of the most common medical problems that cause obstructions of the fallopian tubes are ectopic pregnancies, pelvic inflammatory disease, and endometriosis.

Ectopic pregnancy is the term used to describe a pregnancy that does not occur within the uterus. Most ectopic pregnancies happen when the fertilized egg implants into the side of the fallopian tube, instead of into the side of the uterus. An ectopic pregnancy can be life-threatening to the mother and although the egg can implant the fetus cannot survive in that location. To treat an ectopic pregnancy the woman must undergo surgery to remove the implanted egg before it grows too large and ruptures the fallopian tube. Although surgery is necessary, having the surgery can cause future problems. During surgery, scar tissue can form in the fallopian tube, which can block a future egg from traveling down the fallopian tube and lead to another ectopic pregnancy.

Drawing of an Ectopic Pregnancy from a 1600s Medical Book
ectopic

Pelvic inflammatory disease, also known as PID, is an infection of the female reproductive organs, including the uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. The infectious bacteria are most commonly associated with infections due to sexually transmitted diseases, such as gonorrhea and chlamydia. The bacteria enter the vagina during intercourse and can travel to the fallopian tubes where they infect the tissue. The infection turns healthy tissues to scar tissue which can narrow the fallopian tube or block the entire tube.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Study.com Member.
Create your account

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 10 million people use Study.com

Become a Study.com member and start learning now.
Become a Member

Already a member? Log In

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 100 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 2,900 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? Study.com has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

You now have full access to our lessons and courses, watch the lesson now or keep exploring.
You've watched a video! Now you are officially smarter, check out the next video or take the quiz to keep learning.
You took a quiz! Getting a perfect score on a quiz is how you gain course progress. If you aced it, great job! If not, don't worry, you can try again.
You now have full access to our lessons and courses, watch the lesson now or keep exploring.
You just finished your first lesson. Study.com has thousands of lessons to help you meet your educational goals.
You're making great progress. Aim to watch at least 30 minutes of lessons each day and you'll master this before you know it!
You've learned so much, but only scratched the surface. Wait until you see what we have in your next lesson!
Getting a perfect score on a quiz is how you gain course progress. If you aced it, great job! If not, don’t worry, you can try again.
You're getting the hang of this! Keep taking quizzes to make progress on your learning goals.
Look how far you've come! Take all the quizzes in a chapter and you'll master this topic in no time.
Keep clicking that 'next lesson' button whenever you finish a lesson and its quiz.
You're 25% of the way through this course! Keep going at this rate and you'll be done before you know it.
Two days in a row, nice! Keep your streak going to get the most of your learning and reach your goal faster.