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How do you know if your fallopian tubes are blocked? | Kenya Laparoscopic Surgery Services

What is cardiomyopathy?

Blocked fallopian tubes are one possible cause of female infertility. There are usually no symptoms, but there are some risk factors that can increase the chance of developing the condition. The medical term for a blocked fallopian tube is tubal occlusion.

The fallopian tubes are muscular tubes that are lined with delicate hair-like structures. These “hairs” work in both directions; helping an egg to travel from the ovaries down to the womb (uterus) and helping sperm travel up from the womb.

Each fallopian tube ends in fimbriae, which are finger-like structures. The fimbriae catch and guide an egg when the ovary releases it.

The fallopian tubes play an important role in conception because they are where most eggs are fertilized.

If any part of the fallopian tube is damaged, for example by surgery or an infection, they can become blocked by scar tissue.

Symptoms of blocked fallopian tubes

Blocked fallopian tubes don’t often cause symptoms. Many women don’t know they have blocked tubes until they try to get pregnant and have trouble.

In some cases, blocked fallopian tubes can lead to mild, regular pain on one side of the abdomen. This usually happens in a type of blockage called a hydrosalpinx. This is when fluid fills and enlarges a blocked fallopian tube.

Conditions that can lead to a blocked fallopian tube can cause their own symptoms. For example, endometriosis often causes very painful and heavy periods and pelvic pain. It can increase your risk for blocked fallopian tubes.

Causes

Fallopian tubes are usually blocked by scar tissue or pelvic adhesions. These can be caused by many factors, including:

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease. This disease can cause scarring or hydrosalpinx.
  • Endometriosis. Endometrial tissue can build up in the fallopian tubes and cause a blockage. Endometrial tissue on the outside of other organs can also cause adhesions that block the fallopian tubes.
  • Certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Chlamydia and gonorrhea can cause scarring and lead to pelvic inflammatory disease.
  • Past ectopic pregnancy. This can scar the fallopian tubes.
  • Fibroids. These growths can block the fallopian tube, particularly where they attach to the uterus.
  • Past abdominal surgery. Past surgery, especially on the fallopian tubes themselves, can lead to pelvic adhesions that block the tubes.

You can’t prevent many causes of blocked fallopian tubes. However, you can decrease your risk of STIs by using a condom during sex.

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Symptoms

Blocked fallopian tubes do not often present symptoms other than difficulty conceiving. Doctors typically class this as having tried to conceive for 1 yearTrusted Source without success.

A blocked fallopian tube may cause some women to experience symptoms such as pain in the pelvis or belly. This pain might happen regularly, such as around the time of their period, or be constant.

Sometimes, a blockage in a fallopian tube can cause a fertilized egg to get stuck. This is known as an ectopic pregnancy.

An ectopic pregnancy may not always cause symptoms and is usually detected during a scan. However, some woman may experience signs of pregnancy, such as stomach pain on one side of the body, or vaginal bleeding. Any woman who suspects she has an ectopic pregnancy should seek immediate medical attention.

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Diagnosing a blocked fallopian tube

Hysterosalpingography (HSG) is a type of X-ray used to examine the inside of fallopian tubes to help diagnose blockages. During HSG, your doctor introduces a dye into your uterus and fallopian tubes.

The dye helps your doctor see more of the inside of your fallopian tubes on the X-ray. An HSG can usually be done in your doctor’s office. It should take place within the first half of your menstrual cycle. Side effects are rare, but false positive results are possible.

If the HSG doesn’t help your doctor make a definitive diagnosis, they can use laparoscopy for further evaluation. If the doctor finds a blockage during the procedure, they might remove it, if possible.

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Treating blocked fallopian 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.

Laparoscopic Surgery

In some cases, laparoscopic surgery can open blocked tubes or remove scar tissue.9 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 the chances of getting pregnant after surgery are good.

In Vitro Fertilization

Before the invention of in vitro fertilization (IVF), if repair surgery didn’t work or wasn’t an option, women with blocked tubes had no options to get pregnant. The use of IVF makes conception possible.

IVF treatment involves taking fertility drugs to stimulate the ovaries. Then, using an ultrasound-guided needle through the vaginal wall, your doctor retrieves the eggs directly from the ovaries. In the lab, the eggs are put together with sperm from the male partner or a sperm donor. Hopefully, some of the eggs fertilize and some healthy embryos result. One or two healthy embryos are chosen and transferred to the uterus. 

IVF completely avoids the fallopian tubes, so blockages don’t matter. That said, research has found that an inflamed tube can significantly decrease the odds of IVF success. If you have a hydrosalpinx (fluid-filled tube), your doctor may recommend surgery to remove the tube.11 Then, after recovering from surgery, IVF can be tried. 

Tubal Ligation Reversal

Tubal ligation surgery is a permanent form of birth control, commonly known as “getting your tubes tied.” There are different kinds of tubal ligation. Possibilities include a surgeon cutting the tubes, banding them, clamping them, or placing specialized coils inside them. The idea is to intentionally block the fallopian tubes so the sperm can’t reach the egg.

A significant number of women later regret having a tubal ligation—anywhere from 20% to 30%.12

The good news is that even though this kind of birth control is considered permanent, it can be reversed for many women. Surgical repair of a tubal ligation is more likely to be successful than women having tubal surgery to repair disease-based blockages. Micro-surgical repair is often less expensive than IVF, costing as much as half per delivery.

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