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The fallopian tubes are a set of two narrow tubes that form a major part of the female reproductive system. As a woman’s ovaries produce an egg each month, the fallopian tubes serve as a means of travel for the egg to move from the ovaries so it can potentially be fertilized with sperm. If an egg is not fertilized, the fallopian tubes act as a storage area for the egg until it degenerates. For an egg that is fertilized, what happens to the fallopian tubes during pregnancy, especially in the beginning stages, can mean the difference between a successful full-term pregnancy or one that can cause danger to the mother and embryo.
One of the first things that happens to the fallopian tubes during pregnancy is that it converts to a storage area for the fertilized egg for approximately three days. During these three days, the fertilized egg starts to multiply into many different cells. The fallopian tubes then pass the fertilized egg through to the uterus, where the egg can then attach itself to the endometrium, or the inner lining of the uterus. Once the fertilized egg passes through the fallopian tubes and attaches to the uterus, pregnancy can begin to take place and the egg can begin to develop into a fetus.
Although major changes do not tend to happen to the fallopian tubes during pregnancy, if the fertilized egg does not properly move through the fallopian tubes and instead remains in one of the tubes, it is called an ectopic pregnancy. Since the fallopian tubes are not meant to play a major role in pregnancy or hold an embryo or a developing fetus, an ectopic pregnancy cannot be completed to term. In addition to the fertilized egg not being able to result in the birth of a child, it can also be dangerous or potentially life-threatening to the mother. The fallopian tube with the embryo is at risk of rupturing and can cause uncontrollable bleeding that requires emergency medical attention.
An ectopic pregnancy can have a variety of causes, most of which tend to have to do with some type of prior damage to the fallopian tubes. An infection that affected the fallopian tubes may make a woman more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy in the future. Scar tissue or other damage to the tubes from surgery may also increase the likelihood of the malfunctioning of the fallopian tubes during pregnancy. Abnormalities of the fallopian tubes as a birth defect or due to growths on the tubes can also contribute to ectopic pregnancies.