Healthy Fallopian Tubes for Fertility
Blocked and scarred fallopian tubes are the most common cause of infertility. Finding out that one or both of your fallopian tubes are the reason you’re not getting pregnant can be alarming and stressful.
Tubal problems often have few, if any symptoms and so can go undetected for a long time. This is because blocked and scarred tubes won’t affect your menstrual cycle or your general health.
Many women are unaware that they even have problems with their fallopian tubes until they start to have trouble conceiving.
Just What are Fallopian Tubes?
Your fallopian tubes are part of your reproductive system. These tubes are the passage through which the eggs travel from the ovaries up to the uterus. Each tube is about 4 to 5 inches long.
The outer ends of the tube look like a little funnel and are attached to the uterus. Little flaps called fimbriae collect the mature egg when it’s released by ovaries and directs the egg into the fallopian tube to travel to the uterus.
Infertility and the Fallopian Tubes
About 20 to 25 percent of infertility cases are related to problems with the fallopian tubes.
This can include the following variations:
- Both of the fallopian tubes being blocked.
- Partial blockage of one or both tubes.
- Blockage of one of the tubes.
- Tubal scarring.
When the fallopian tube is only partially blocked, an ectopic pregnancy can occur. An ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilized egg implants itself outside of the uterus, often inside the lining of the fallopian tube.
It is not possible for an ectopic pregnancy to go full term and termination of the pregnancy is done as soon as it’s diagnosed.
A Primary Cause of Fallopian Tube Infertility
One of the main causes of infertility due to damage to the fallopian tubes is a pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). PID is the result of an STD (sexually transmitted disease).
PID is usually caused by infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea which has moved from the cervix to the uterus and into the fallopian tubes.
The tubes are filled with pus as the body produces white blood cells to fight the infection.
It’s through the body’s battle with an infection that the inner lining of the fallopian tubes is often permanently damaged and scarred, this can lead to infertility.
Other causes of blocked and damaged fallopian tubes can include:
- History of having a uterine infection caused by a miscarriage or abortion.
- Having had a ruptured appendix.
- History of having abdominal surgery.
- An ectopic pregnancy that was terminated.
- A current STD infection.
- Uterine fibroids.
- Birth defects in the uterus and fallopian tubes.
- Previous surgery for repair to the fallopian tubes.
It’s important that you talk to your doctor about your past medical history so that a correct diagnosis can be made about any infertility problems you may be experiencing.
Diagnosing Fallopian Tube Damage
Blocked fallopian tubes are generally diagnosed through a special x-ray called a hysterosalpingogram (HSG). During this procedure, a radiopaque dye is inserted into the cervix.
The dye will then outline the interiors of the fallopian tubes and uterus. The test is usually done a few days after you’ve had your period.
The x-ray will be able to determine if there is any full or partial blockage in the fallopian tubes. It’s important to note that about 15 percent of HSG tests will come back with a false positive.
This happens when the dye isn’t able to get past the uterus and into the tubes. You may need to undergo a second HSG test to confirm the results of the first test.
Other tests to diagnose fallopian tube damage include ultrasound and diagnostic laparoscopic surgery. During a laparoscopy, a tiny camera is inserted in through the cervix.
This type of surgery can be used to open blocked tubes and to remove any scar tissue that may be a factor in your infertility.
Treating Damaged Fallopian Tubes to Increase Fertility
Every year thousands of women are diagnosed with blockage and scarring in the fallopian tubes that are preventing them from becoming pregnant.
The big question they all ask is: what can be done to open my tubes? In some cases repairing tubal damage may not be an option. For these women, other infertility treatments may need to be considered.
The following are medical treatments that can be used to reopen the tubes:
- Tubal surgery: Using laparoscopic surgery the fallopian tubes are opened and/or scar tissue is removed.
- Salpingectomy: Part of the fallopian tube is removed. This procedure is often used before IVF treatment.
- Salpingostomy: When one end of the fallopian tube is blocked a new tubal entrance is created as close to the ovary as possible.
Depending on the type of damage to your fallopian tubes, by using one of the above surgical treatments your surgeon may be able to increase your chances of getting pregnant by up to 25 percent.