Shruti was getting bugged by the mounting pressure to have a baby. Wherever she went, it seemed the questions followed her. Finally she decided to visit a specialist and get things sorted. But then even after several months of screenings, scans, tests, and injections nothing seemed to work. That is when the doctor hinted that she might want to check for blocked fallopian tubes. Now what’s that?
This is one of the situations that many women who consult a fertility specialist are stuck in. Doctors try every possible way to help them conceive, but sometimes nothing seems to work. That is when they resort to check the blocked fallopian tubes. Though common, the symptoms are not glaring and hence blocked fallopian tubes often go unnoticed until all other normal methods of conception have been tested and tried.
What Exactly is Blocked Fallopian Tubes?
Fallopian tubes are the two thin tubes on either side of the uterus where the egg and sperm meet and get fertilized. When there is block in the tube, the sperm cannot meet the egg and hence fertilization is obstructed. This accounts for 20 percent of the causes for female infertility and could be of three types:
Distal tubal occlusion
This affects the end portion of the fallopian tube and is often due to fluid accumulation (caused by the bacteria chlamydia trachomatis¹) and pelvic adhesions.
Mid-segment Tubal Obstruction
This could be due to the surgical procedures involved in sterilization.
Proximal tubal occlusion
This could be the result of septic abortion² or the Essure³ procedure (tubal sterilization procedure) which targets the portion of the tube closest to the uterus.
This obviously brings us to the question of why does this happen. Let’s take a look at some of the known causes behind blocked fallopian tubes.
Why Do Fallopian Tubes Get Blocked?
The most common cause of tubal blockage is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) or a history of PID. It has believed that if a woman has had one or upto three instances of PID, the chances of tubal blockage could be approximately 12 percent in case of former to about 53 percent in the case of latter. Apart from this, blockagecould be the result of a sexually transmitted disease, but not always. Among other causes, the most prominent ones are:
- History of uterine infection resulting from an abortion/miscarriage.
- History of a ruptured appendix.
- Previously conducted abdominal surgeries or any other surgery which involved the fallopian tubes.
- Prior ectopic pregnancy.
How To Know Your Fallopian Tubes Are Blocked?
It is important to remember that in many cases the symptoms of blocked tubes don’t present themselves. In some instances women are able to ovulate despite the blockage in the tubes. In situations like these it is difficult to point at the blocked tubes as a cause for infertility. However, here are some symptoms to watch out for:
- Women suffering from infertility with a history of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
- Pain during periods and sexual intercourse.
- Pain in the lower abdomen.
- Unusual vaginal discharge.
- Pain while urinating.
Diagnosis of Blocked Fallopian Tubes:
Though the symptoms of tubal blockage are not easy to catch, once it is suspected, diagnosis is possible with a specialized X-ray called hysterosalpingogram (HSG). In this, adye is placed at the cervix using a tiny tube. Once the dye is given, the doctor takesthe X-ray of the pelvic region. If the dye passes through the uterus, through the fallopian tubes, around the ovaries and into the pelvic cavity, all is well. If it is not able to get past the tubes, a blockage is confirmed. Apart from this, doctors could also suggest an ultrasound, exploratory laparoscopic surgery (where small incisions are made to insert a laparoscope and specialized instruments to inspect the abdominal region) or even a hysteroscopy (where a thin camera is placed through the cervix to examine the uterus).
Is Blocked Fallopian Tube Treatment Possible?
Of course. Traditionally, tubal surgery is recommended to clear the blocked tubes. But one cannot be too sure to steer clear of the side effects that may follow, the most common one being chances of ectopic pregnancies. If one wants a less invasive solution to this, doctors recommend opting for an IVF to get pregnant. But if the tubes are blocked because of fluid accumulation (hydrosalpinx), the success of IVF is doubtful. Hence the fluid has to be cleared prior to proceeding for an IVF.
Prevention is always better than cure. The best way in this case is guard oneself from any kind of STD (sexually transmitted diseases). Also, don’t neglect cases of pelvic inflammatory disease. Small steps taken at the right time could prevent bigger problems later. Watch out for any symptom and consult an expert to prevent the slightest chances of infertility later.
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