A fallopian tube blockage or obstruction is one of the major causes of infertility in women. As many as 20% of women who are unable to conceive, owe this fact to tubal blockages, which is what prevents the union of the female egg and the male sperm.
It isn’t just infertility that is a problem, if a conception does occur; there is a greater chance of an ectopic pregnancy when a woman has a fallopian tube blockage.
Another problem that may result from a blocked fallopian tube is hydrosalpinx, when fluid builds up there, which can subsequently back up and into the uterus.
This can prevent the implantation of an embryo. Therefore even if a couple is considering IVF or other assisted pregnancy, this is usually not possible when there is a blockage in the fallopian tube.
Couples are advised to have the fallopian blockage resolved before attempting IVF.
However, it isn’t impossible to get pregnant with a blockage in the fallopian tube particularly if only one tube is blocked – here it is possible for the regular passage of the ovum and sperm in one if not the other tube.
Some treatments of a fallopian tube blockage may prove to be temporary since it is possible that the problem may reoccur after being resolved. So at times it could be that a couple has a limited window within which to conceive after having a blockage removed because of the apprehension of recurrence.
What causes fallopian tube blockage?
- Pelvic Inflammatory disease (PID) is the most frequent cause of a blockage in the fallopian tube. Even having had PID in the past seems to increase risk of such a blockage.
- Sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea and chlamydia can also cause damage to the fallopian tubes and hence blockages.
- A miscarriage or abortion or even childbirth may result in infection / damage that could increase risk as well.
- Surgery in the abdominal region or to the fallopian tubes could cause build up of scar tissue, adhesions, and other problems resulting in blockages.
- A previous case of ectopic pregnancy is known to raise risk of a blockage, which ironically raises chances of a further ectopic pregnancy.
- Infections within the abdomen such as peritonitis or appendicitis could also increase chances of a fallopian tube blockage.
- Endometriosis is also a cause for blockages occurring within the fallopian tubes.
What are the symptoms of a fallopian tube blockage?
Very often a blockage or blocks in the tubes may be completely asymptomatic; i.e. may present no discernible symptoms.
- When symptoms do occur, there may be an absence of or irregularity in the monthly period.
- When it is hydrosalpinx that a woman suffers from, in some cases she may also experience some abdominal pain and atypical discharge from the vagina.
- It could be that a woman is trying to get pregnant but due to the irregularity of ovulation is unable to do so, and so in a sense infertility can be said to be a symptom of fallopian tube blockage.