By Chioma Umeha
To answer this, it is important to first address the question: What are Blocked Fallopian Tubes?
The fallopian tubes are two thin tubes, one on each side of the uterus, which help lead the mature egg from the ovaries to the uterus.
When an obstruction prevents the egg from traveling down the tube, the woman has a blocked fallopian tube. It can occur on one or both sides. This is also known as tubal factor infertility, and is the cause of infertility in 40 per cent of infertile women.
How Do Blocked Fallopian Tubes Cause Infertility?
Each month, when ovulation occurs, an egg is released from one of the ovaries. The egg travels from the ovary, through the tubes, and into the uterus. The sperm also need to swim their way from the cervix, through the uterus, and through the fallopian tubes to get the egg. Fertilization usually takes place while the egg is traveling through the tube.
If one or both fallopian tubes are blocked, the egg cannot reach the uterus, and the sperm cannot reach the egg, preventing fertilization and pregnancy.
It’s also possible for the tube not to be blocked totally, but only partially. This can increase the risk of a tubal pregnancy, or ectopic pregnancy.
What are the symptoms of Blocked Fallopian Tubes?
Unlike anovulation, where irregular menstrual cycles may hint to a problem, blocked fallopian tubes rarely cause symptoms.
A specific kind of blocked fallopian tube, called hydrosalpinx, may cause lower abdominal pain and unusual vaginal discharge, but not every woman will have these symptoms.
Hydrosalpinx is when a blockage causes the tube to dilate (increase in diameter) and fill with fluid. The fluid blocks the egg and sperm, preventing fertilization and pregnancy.
Hydrosalpinx: Treatment and causes
However, some of the causes of blocked fallopian tubes can lead to other problems as well.
For example, endometriosis and pelvic inflammatory disease may cause painful menstruation and painful sexual intercourse. But these symptoms don’t necessarily point to blocked tubes.
If you have one open tube, and are otherwise healthy, you might be able to get pregnant without too much help. Your doctor may give you fertility drugs to increase the chances of ovulating on the side with the open tube.
This is not an option, however, if both tubes are blocked.
In some cases, laparoscopic surgery can open blocked tubes or remove scar tissue that is causing problems. Unfortunately, this treatment doesn’t always work. The chance of success depends on how old you are (the younger, the better), how bad and where the blockage is, and the cause of blockage.
If just a few adhesions are between the tubes and ovaries, then your chances of getting pregnant after surgery are good. If you have a blocked tube that is otherwise healthy, you have a 20 per cent to 40 per cent chance of getting pregnant after surgery.
But if thick, multiple adhesions and scarring are between your tubes and ovaries, or if you have been diagnosed with hydrosalpinx, surgery may not be a good option for you. Also, if there are any male infertility issues, you might want to skip surgery.
In these cases, IVF treatment is your best bet.
Also important to note is that your risk of ectopic pregnancy is higher after surgery to treat tubal blockage. Your doctor should closely monitor you if you do get pregnant.