What is a fallopian tube?
According to researchers a fallopian tube is one of two ducts in female mammals leading from the ovaries to the upper part of the uterus. In the human female the fallopian tubes are about 2 cm thick and 10 to 13 cm long. Many cases of infertility in women are due to blocked fallopian tubes, which can be a result from infections, especially that which is contracted from sexually transmitted disease.
Fertility specialists can call upon a variety of tests to determine whether the fallopian tubes are functioning properly. These test are:
- Insufflation of the fallopian tubes. Blowing air or gas into some opening of the body is insufflation in medical term. Carbon dioxide is blown through the uterus and it will escape through the fallopian tubes. This test enables the physician to determine whether the tubes are open. A properly open tubes will accept the gas at a steady rate. Sometimes the physician will listen with a stethoscope on the abdomen to determine the rate at which the gas is escaping.
- Hysterosalpingogram. In Hysterosalpingogram while an x-ray film is made, a water-soluble fluid is injected in the uterus. As the uterus is fill with the fluid, it enters the tubes and goes toward the ovaries. Blockages and abnormalities can be revealed in this way. Sometimes a woman is able to become pregnant after the procedure has been performed. Her fertility having been caused by a minor blockage was removed by the liquid. The procedure is often performed under general anesthesia. Other conditions revealed by this test can be corrected with antibiotics or surgically.
- Laparoscopy. Under general anesthesia through a small incision just beneath the umbilicus, a minor surgical procedure is performed. A laparoscope is a small, telescope-like instrument with it's own lighting system. It is inserted into the abdominal cavity, and the physician is able to inspect the pelvic organs. A thin hollow needle is inserted into the abdominal cavity and a gas, either carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide is gently pumped through it and into the abdomen. The passage of a colored fluid pumped into the uterine cavity and into the fallopian tubes will permit the doctor to see whether the tubes are open or closed or whether there is a blocked fallopian tubes. According to medical doctors a decision to perform surgery to restore fertility can be made at that time. The laparoscopy is removed, the gas is drawn out and the incision closed with stitch or two at the end of the procedure.
A group of couples will be helped by removal of blockages, treatment or induction of ovulation with fertility drugs. For some couples, however, the tests reveal an absolute inability to have children in these cases, here are some alternatives:
- Artificial insemination. If both partners want it, artificial insemination, by donor sperm could take place. Donors are usually chosen for physical similarities to the couple. Medical students and interns are often donors. Insemination procedure are usually done more than once, sometimes with a different donor each time. Often the partner's sperm may be mixed in with the donor sample. This method of artificial insemination usually has better results, compare to the male partner's semen is collected and placed in the uterus of the female partner around the time of the ovulation. Reported pregnancy rates, however, are low according to a medical doctor.
- In Vitro Fertilization. Since the birth of the first "test tube" baby several years ago, this controversial concept has held public attention. According to researchers it is still highly experimental and used only when there is no other alternative. It requires, that the woman be capable of producing ova and is ovulating. Here just after her menstrual period, the woman receives hormones to stimulate ovarian activity. This is intended to produce as many ova as possible. Just before ovulation, the woman enters the hospital, where the ova are obtained by laparoscopy. After a short incubation, a sperm sample is added, either from her partner or from a donor. If fertilization occur, the developing embryos are incubated. This is where the test-tube labeling of the procedure came from, until they reach the 2 to 8-cell state. They are then transferred to the uterus. To decrease the possibility of miscarriage, the woman receives more hormones. Hormone levels continue to be measured until it is certain that the pregnancy is in progress.
- Adoption. For infertile couple, adoption has been the traditional solution. Although there are fewer infants available than before, adoption might first look into this means of having the opportunity to raise a child.
De Leon, Jun, "What Affects a Woman's fertility?" CHIC No. 479
"Fallopian Tube." Microsoft Encarta 2009 [DVD]. Redmond, WA: Microsoft Corporation, 2008