The ovaries and fallopian tubes

The ovaries are two small, oval-shaped organs in the pelvis. The pelvis is the area between the hips in the lower part of the tummy. The ovaries are part of the female reproductive system. This is the system involved in making eggs, having sex, carrying a baby and giving birth. It also includes the fallopian tubes, womb (uterus), cervix and vagina.

The fallopian tubes are two fine tubes that link the ovaries to either side of the womb. Normally, from puberty to menopause, one of the ovaries releases an egg once a month. The egg passes down the fallopian tube to the womb. If the egg is not fertilised by a sperm, it passes out of the womb as part of the monthly period.

The ovaries also produce the female hormones oestrogen and progesterone. These hormones help control the reproductive system. As you get older, the ovaries make less of these hormones. The ovaries stop releasing eggs each month and periods stop. This is known as the menopause. It means you cannot get pregnant anymore. It usually happens naturally between your mid-40s and mid-50s.

Female pelvic lymph nodes

Organs close to the ovaries and fallopian tubes

There are several organs close to the ovaries and fallopian tubes. These include:

  • the bladder
  • the ureters – tubes which drain urine from the kidneys to the bladder
  • the back passage (rectum)
  • part of the bowel
  • groups of lymph nodes
  • the womb (uterus).

The peritoneum

A layer of tissue supports the ovaries and fallopian tubes. This tissue is called the peritoneum.

In men and women, the inner layer of the peritoneum covers the surface of all the organs in the tummy (abdomen), such as the stomach, liver and bowel. The outer layer lines the wall of the abdomen. Between the two layers is a small amount of fluid. This lets the layers move easily against each other.

The peritoneum helps protect the organs in the abdomen and keep them in place. A section of the inner layer forms an extra flap of tissue that hangs down from the stomach, in front of the bowel. This flap is called the omentum.

Side view of the female pelvis

About our information

  • Ovarian cancer references

    Below is a sample of the sources used in our ovarian cancer information. If you would like more information about the sources we use, please contact us at cancerinformationteam@macmillan.org.uk

    Fotopoulou C, et al. British Gynaecological Cancer Society (BGCS) epithelial ovarian/ fallopian tube/ primary peritoneal cancer guidelines: recommendations for practice. European Journal of Obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology. 2017. 213: 123-139.

    National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. Ovarian cancer: recognition and initial management. Clinical guideline (CG122). April 2011. Available from: www.nice.org.uk/Guidance/CG122 (accessed June 2017). 

  • Reviewers

    This information has been written, revised and edited by Macmillan Cancer Support’s Cancer Information Development team. It has been reviewed by expert medical and health professionals and people living with cancer. It has been approved by Senior Medical Editor, Professor David Luesley, Professor of Gynaecological Oncology.

    Our cancer information has been awarded the PIF TICK. Created by the Patient Information Forum, this quality mark shows we meet PIF’s 10 criteria for trustworthy health information.