Blocked fallopian tubes are one of the more common causes of infertility in women. The fallopian tube provides the path for ovulation, as well as the site for natural fertilization to occur. Your fallopian tubes carry the fertilized egg on to the uterus for implantation and pregnancy. Should the path become blocked due to damage, naturally occurring pregnancy is unlikely.
Unfortunately, most of the time, fallopian tube blockage doesn’t have any symptoms. The first time many women are aware their fallopian tubes are damaged is when they seek treatment for infertility. While a common cause of infertility, fallopian damage isn’t always easy to repair.
Minimizing the Damage by Recognizing the Cause
Damage to your fallopian tubes doesn’t happen without cause. Most of the time, scar tissue and adhesions in the pelvis are the result of an undiagnosed condition, so staying on top of your reproductive health is essential to minimizing the damage to your fallopian tubes. It’s not always possible to prevent damage, but in some instances, it is possible to halt the threat to your tubes and improve your odds for conception.
Here are some of the common causes of scar tissue and adhesions in and around your fallopian tubes, which can cause damage:
- Endometriosis: Endometriosis can cause endometrial tissue to grow inside the fallopian tubes. It can also cause adhesions (scar tissue) in the pelvic region which will create a blockage by compressing the fallopian tubes. Surgery can remove the endometrial tissue, but the damage to your fallopian tubes may already be done. Best way to avoid endometriosis is to use birth control pills until pregnancy is planned.
- Pelvic Inflammatory Disease: PID poses a threat to your future fertility and your fallopian tube health. Although PID is caused by an infection, usually sexually transmitted, it often doesn’t present with symptoms. Untreated, PID, like endometriosis, can cause scarring and adhesions to your fallopian tubes, ovaries, vagina, and uterus. Always maintain safe sex practices and use a condom to avoid sexually transmitted diseases which would then prevent the formation of PID. If you experience abnormal bleeding, such as during intercourse, or between cycles, have heaviness and pain in your pelvic, or lower abdominal region, malodorous discharge, with fever, chills or nausea, it’s important that you be seen by a physician.
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases: For those who have had an STI, treatment doesn’t necessarily alleviate the damage to your fallopian tubes. Again, safe sex practices, including using a condom, should always be followed.
- Ectopic Pregnancy: A previous ectopic pregnancy can cause scarring and damage to the affected fallopian tube. If someone has an ectopic pregnancy, then next time she is pregnant there is 15 fold increase in the risk of having another ectopic pregnancy.
- Prior Surgeries in Pelvic Region: Previous surgeries, on, or near, the fallopian tubes, can result in scar tissue that can ultimately create a blockage. Appendicitis can extend to the pelvic area especially if it had burst and can cause tubal disease.
- Fibroids:Uterine fibroids can block the fallopian tubes as they grow, at the point where the tubes connect to the uterus. Early treatment for fibroids may help minimize damage to your fallopian tubes, but the location and the size as well as the number of fibroids typically dictate whether surgical treatment is necessary in most cases.
What to Do When Your Fallopian Tubes Are Damaged
Treatment for these conditions can prevent further damage to your fallopian tubes, however, if the damage is serious, you may need to have a surgical procedure. This will be decided after you have a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) to determine the extent and location of the damage to your tubes.
In many cases, if the tube has been damaged due to hydrosalpinx, or an ectopic pregnancy, it will be removed. In the case of hydrosalpinx, the tube becomes diseased and must be removed in order to preserve the biochemical integrity of your uterus. When both tubes are blocked, and naturally occurring pregnancy is not possible, you can still achieve pregnancy via IVF.
Short of a crystal ball, there may be no way to discern whether you have a blockage, or damage to, your fallopian tubes. You can, however, be aware of the conditions which could render damage to your fallopian tubes. If you suspect you have one of the conditions that pose a risk to your fertility by threatening your fallopian tubes, seek treatment immediately.
In the case of a fallopian tube that’s formed a blockage, fluid will become trapped and the tube will swell. When this occurs you will likely be in pain, on one side of your pelvic region. This is called hydrosalpinx. In addition to the pain, you may experience an abnormal discharge. It’s important to have your hydrosalpinx diagnosed as fluid can build and leak into your uterus, which can interfere with implantation of an embryo.