Understanding what’s causing your infertility is the first step towards developing a positive outlook and seeking the right treatment from a trusted fertility specialist. One of the major causes of infertility in women is tubal factor infertility, more commonly known as blocked fallopian tubes, which affects nearly 20% of women facing infertility.
Fallopian tubes are a vital part of the female reproductive system as they are the passage through which the mature eggs make their way from the ovaries to the uterus. The two thin tubes lie on either side of the uterus. When, due to any reason, one or both of the fallopian tubes get blocked, the egg is unable to travel from the ovary to the uterus. As a result, it is unable to meet the sperm for fertilization, leading to infertility.
A woman having blocked fallopian tubes might not even be aware of it as she can still ovulate and have normal periods. However, some patients do experience irregular menstruation, vaginal discharge and abdominal pain.
Causes of blocked fallopian tubes
Primarily, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is responsible for tubal blockage. Though this inflammatory condition is associated with sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and Chlamydia infections, it may happen because of other reasons too. Even a history of PID can has been linked with elevated risk of blocked fallopian tubes.
Other causes of tubal blockage can be a uterine infection after a miscarriage or abortion, an abdominal surgery, endometriosis, a prior surgical procedure on the fallopian tubes or history of an ectopic pregnancy.
Diagnosis of tubal blockage
The presence of tubal blockage is detected through a test called the hysterosalpingogram (HSG), which involves passing a dye through the cervix using a thin tube. After this, a pelvic X-ray is performed to check any blockage in the fallopian tubes. In case the ink reaches the uterus, it implies absence of blockage while the reverse is predicted if the dye fails to get through either of the tubes.
Since the test has a 15% incidence of a false positive, further tests like ultrasound, hysteroscopy or exploratory laparoscopic surgery may be recommended to confirm the condition.
Additionally, a simple blood test to look for Chlamydia antibodies is a cost-effective way to detect fallopian tube blockage. In case the test comes out positive for the presence of these antibodies, it can pinpoint the fact that the patient has STD or a history of it. This, in turn, increases the chances of existence of tubal blockage in her case.
Can I become pregnant despite having blocked fallopian tube(s)?
In most cases, Yes!
Once tubal blockage is confirmed, a knowledgeable and experienced fertility specialist would help you weigh the pros and cons of various treatment options along with the likelihood of success for each. The good news is that if you have one healthy fallopian tube, an experienced fertility specialist can help you conceive with minimal medical intervention. All that may be required is to administer fertility medications for enhancing the ovulating ability of the healthy side.
In case both the fallopian tubes are blocked, the following alternatives may be considered:
IVF or In Vitro Fertilization
This line of treatment is chosen when your doctor determines that blockage removal may be of no use in your case. It is a standard fertility treatment procedure where the fertilized embryo is prepared in the lab and placed directly into the uterus. Since the oocytes (eggs) are directly retrieved from the ovaries and combined with sperm in a lab dish, the role of the fallopian tubes here is non-existent. This method is recommended for patients where tubes are not in a condition to be opened, probably due to excessive damage or scarring.
Laparoscopic Surgery to treat tubal blockage
This is a minimally invasive advanced surgical treatment where scar tissue blocking the tube is removed in an effort to restore its normal function.
When deciding which treatment modality to pursue, your doctor needs to consider multiple factors such as the age of the patient, condition of the tubes, and reasons of blockage. For instance, a patient suffering from hydrosalpinx or with multiple adhesions in her fallopian tube(s) is discouraged from undergoing laparoscopic surgery.
While it is possible for a woman with blocked fallopian tubes to have a healthy pregnancy, there is a need to weigh the risks and benefits of the treatment. Therefore it is vital for patients with this condition to consult with an experienced fertility specialist equipped to treat such cases.
If you have been diagnosed with blocked fallopian tube(s) and need further guidance before committing to a treatment, get the right advice or a free second opinion from India’s leading Infertility Specialist and Laparoscopic Surgeon Dr.Manika Khanna at Gaudium Fertility Clinic.