Pregnancy help: could your fallopian tubes be blocked?
If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for some time without success, one physical factor could be a blockage in one or both of your fallopian tubes. About 20% of female infertility is related to blocked or damaged fallopian tubes.
To understand what blocked fallopian tubes are, it helps to know what your fallopian tube is. Your fallopian tubes are two thin tubes, one on each side of the uterus, which carry 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. Your fallopian tubes can be blocked for a number of reasons:
- blocked from birth (congenital tubal obstruction);
- intentional tying or clipping (to prevent pregnancy);
- accidental damage following other surgery e.g. colectomy;
- severe endometriosis; or
- inflammation (salpingitis).
Inflammation is the most common reason for a blocked fallopian tube. The inflammation can happen inside your fallopian tubes - usually the case with sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as gonorrhoea or chlamydia - or outside your tubes because of an infection from another organ such as the appendix.
The tubes get blocked due to damage from adhesions - where two damaged surfaces actually join together. Adhesions can also occur after pelvic surgery or as a result of endometriosis and they can impact your fertility in a number of ways - by separating the ovary and tube with new tissue or by blocking the outer end of the tube. In many cases, we can clear the blockage with microsurgery or by inserting fine catheters into the tubes.
If you have blocked fallopian tubes you’ll rarely experience any symptoms. One kind of blockage which is called hydrosalpinx and is caused by fluid can cause pain in your lower abdomen but not every woman suffering hydrosalpinx will experience this pain.
How do blocked fallopian tubes cause infertility?
Each month when you ovulate, an egg is released from one of your ovaries and travels through the fallopian tubes into the uterus. Your partner’s sperm need to swim from the cervix, through the uterus, and through the fallopian tubes to get to the egg. Fertilisation 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 fertilisation and pregnancy.
Are blocked fallopian tubes stopping me from getting pregnant?
If only one fallopian tube is blocked, but the other is clear, it may still be possible to achieve pregnancy. It depends on how well the ovaries are functioning, and also what caused the blocked tube in the first place.
There are a number of treatments available to help improve your chances of getting pregnant naturally and if your blockages are significant, fertility treatment is also an option.