Conceiving with One Ovary
The Critical Question
The question many women ask is: Can I get pregnant with only one ovary or one fallopian tube? The short answer is "yes," however conceiving with a single ovary is likely only under certain conditions. This article will explain the how the location of an ovary relative to the location of the fallopian tubes (or a single fallopian tube) is a critical factor in becoming pregnant.
Role of the Ovaries and Fallopian Tubes
In order to conceive, women must have at least one functioning ovary. Each month, the ovary releases a single egg into the fallopian tubes in a process called ovulation. Whether women have one or two ovaries, women who ovulate can potentially get pregnant. Once an egg is fertilized by sperm, the fertilized egg travels via the fallopian tubes to the uterus, where it implants and remains until it is time to give birth. In the case of two healthy ovaries, the ovaries alternate in releasing an egg, albeit not in any predictable pattern.
Oophorectomy is the procedure wherein women have one or both of their ovaries removed. Ovary removal may be advised or necessary for women who have ovarian cancer, who are risk for breast cancer (in which case they undergo preventative oophorectomy), whose ovary has become twisted (known as ovarian torsion), or who have a tubo-ovarian abscess.
Likelihood of Pregnancy with One Ovary/Fallopian Tube
Usually, an egg is released into the fallopian adjacent to that ovary - in other words, to the fallopian tube that is on the same side of the ovary from where the egg drops. For women who have only one ovary and and/or one fallopian tube, the chances of becoming pregnant are greatest when these are located next to each other.
However the chances that an egg released from one ovary will reach the fallopian tube on the opposite side are very slim, and thus the odds of getting pregnant in this case are very low. Similarly, women with a single ovary and a single fallopian tube on opposite sides are at risk for an ectopic pregnancy, also known as a tubal pregnancy. In a tubal pregnancy, instead of implanting in the uterus, the fertilized egg implants in one of the fallopian tubes where it cannot survive. Ectopic pregnancies can ultimately be life-threatening for the mother and cause damage to a woman's reproductive organs.
If women with a single ovary have tried unsuccessfully to conceive for a period of one year to 15 months, they are advised to seek advice from a fertility expert and to consider fertility treatments such as intrauterine insemination (IUI) or in vitro fertilization (IFV).