The fallopian tubes collect the egg from the ovary. Conception most likely happens inside a fallopian tube and then the fertilized egg travels to the uterus where it implants. Given the relevance of these small thin tubes, let’s see what can happen when there’s blockage in one, or both, of the fallopian tubes.
Blocked fallopian tubes
The lumen of a fallopian tube (the space inside) is a bit wider than a human hair but not much. Although the fallopian tubes are quite tough, as you can imagine, it doesn’t take a lot for such a tiny tube to get blocked.
When a fallopian tube is blocked, it gets filled up with fluid. Hydrosalpinx is the medical terminology to refer to swollen fallopian tubes, filled up with fluid.
Blocked fallopian tubes can lead to serious fertility complications.
How common is hydrosalpinx?
It’s not easy to know how common blocked fallopian tubes are in the general population, because many women never find out that their fallopian tubes are blocked.
However, the data available is mostly from fertility and in vitro fertilization studies. Blocked tubes are responsible for up to 30% of female infertility problems.
Symptoms of hydrosalpinx
Often, there are no clear signs of fallopian tube obstruction, apart from the inability to get pregnant naturally.
On other occasions, there might be symptoms similar to those of pelvic inflammatory disease, such as pelvic pain and unusual vaginal discharge.
When considering fertility issues, remember that each couple is different and each needs individualized care. When dealing with tubal factor infertility, there are several things to consider. For example, is it just one fallopian tube that’s blocked or both?
Can I get pregnant if my fallopian tubes are blocked?
Depending on the degree of the blockage, it is possible to get pregnant.
However, getting pregnant naturally with blocked fallopian tubes can be tricky and even dangerous.
The egg is the biggest cell of the human body. Would you like to guess which cell is the smallest? If you’re thinking about the tiny ‘swimmer’ that’s needed to fertilize the egg to make a human being, you’re right.
If there’s a blockage in the fallopian tube in which the egg is travelling towards the uterus, it’s very likely that the sperm cells will have no problem crossing the blockage and fertilizing the egg. However, as the fertilized egg continues to move towards the inside of the uterus it can become trapped at the site of the blockage.
If this happens, an ectopic pregnancy will occur. A baby cannot survive an ectopic pregnancy and, if the fallopian tube ruptures, it might also endanger the woman’s life.
Read more about ectopic pregnancy in Ectopic Pregnancy | Symptoms, Signs And Treatment.
Can I still ovulate with blocked fallopian tubes?
A woman’s ovarian function doesn’t depend on the permeability of the fallopian tubes. If whatever has affected the fallopian tubes (scar tissue, inflamation from a previous pelvic infection, pelvic inflammatory disease or sexually transmitted diseases) doesn’t affect the ovarian function, the woman will continue to ovulate regularly. Her menstrual cycle might not be affected at all by the blocked fallopian tubes.
Read more about women’s physiology in Menstrual Cycle – Stages, Phases And What To Expect and When Do You Ovulate? How To Pinpoint Ovulation.
Can you retrieve eggs with blocked fallopian tubes?
Yes. In most cases of tubal infertility, you can. When you suffer from tubal factor infertility, your tubes are blocked. The pathway the fertilized egg takes to implant itself in the uterine wall is blocked and it cannot carry on but your ovaries, if there is no other problem, should be working perfectly fine.
The good thing about retrieving eggs in this way is that the mature eggs are collected directly from the ovary and they don’t need to go through the fallopian tube.
Is IVF successful with blocked tubes?
In an IVF treatment, once the eggs have been retrieved they are analyzed and the chosen egg(s) will be fertilized in vitro.
Once the in vitro fertilization has taken place in the lab, the embryo will be inserted directly in the uterus.
In vitro fertilization is actually the technique that replaces the process that usually happens in the fallopian tubes.
IVF is the ideal fertility technique when the cause of infertility is related to blocked tubes.
Find out more in our article IVF – Find Out How It Works In This Cool Video!
Can you have blocked fallopian tubes and not know?
It is quite possible for women to have blocked fallopian tubes and not know. Some women will only find out when they are unsuccessful in trying to get pregnant naturally. Others will never know.
Some women won’t try to get pregnant; others will try but won’t look for the reasons why they don’t succeed and some will already be mothers and the fallopian tube damage might be done after they’ve had their children.
Sometimes, even if the tubal blockage causes pain, a woman might never find out the root cause of her discomfort.
Fallopian tube blockage treatment
Let’s look at the different treatment options available for blocked fallopian tubes.
Fallopian tube blockage surgery
Sometimes the fallopian tubes are just filled up with fluid or the blockage can be flushed away. In other cases, if the tubal blockage is near the ovary, a new opening can be made in that end of the fallopian tube, to collect the egg released from the ovary.
Then it can make it safely to the fallopian tube past the initial blockage.
Whatever the case, tubal surgery is the most well known treatment for tubal blockage.
If tubal blockages are near the uterus, a technique called ‘fallopian tube recanalization’ is performed. In this procedure, the surgeon accesses the fallopian tubes through the cervix via fluoroscopy;
this is where a contrast agent is administered, to guide the tools through the inside of the fallopian tube.
This is the most common procedure performed for blocked fallopian tubes. Some professionals consider this a nonsurgical procedure, as no cut is made to access the fallopian tubes.
Depending on the technique used, the fallopian tubes might be accessed from the vagina and up the cervix towards the fallopian tube.
This can also be done with laparoscopic surgery, where a small incision is made – usually in the belly button – and the surgery is performed through this tiny opening, minimizing the impact and the scar tissue.
Fallopian tube blockage – ayurvedic treatment
Ayurvedic medicine has been practised for millenia. It’s an ancient practice that has been taught and transmitted from generation to generation until the present time. Although it originated in India and Nepal, this methodology is now practised throughout the world.
Uttar Basti is an ayurvedic technique where an special oil is introduced into the uterus in days 6-8 and 12-14 of the same menstrual cycle. Uttar Basti can help in cases of adhesions and inflamed tissue.
This ayurvedic technique is said to unblock most fallopian tubes. When Uttar Basti doesn’t remove the blockage, other ayurvedic techniques, called vaman or virechama treatment can be used to treat blocked fallopian tubes.
What happens if hydrosalpinx is left untreated?
Once a blockage appears, it’s unlikely that it will resolve on its own. Fallopian tube blockages will most likely continue to develop further if left untreated.
When a fallopian tube is partially blocked, it will soon turn into a completely blocked fallopian tube if left untreated. The more blocked fallopian tubes are, the more difficult it will become to remove the obstruction.
Once the blockage happens, inflammation of the blocked fallopian tubes follows. Fluid fills up the fallopian tube and it starts to dilate.
If inflammation continues for a long period of time, the fluid-filled tube will lose its collagen, causing a tubal disease, where the walls of the woman’s fallopian tubes will stick to each other and become completely obstructed.
Early stages of hydrosalpinx
In the early stages of tubal occlusion, there might be some, even many, possibilities of reversing the tubal blockage. The more time the blockage is left untreated, the greater the damage.
For example, the blockage usually starts in one fallopian tube. If untreated, inflammation will develop. Pelvic adhesions happen when new tissue (mainly scar tissue) develops.
This tissue has different properties from the original tissue. When scar tissue appears, healthy tissue will most likely adhere to it.
Not only surgical procedures create scar tissue; any long-lasting aggression might create the right environment for pelvic adhesions to develop.
A localised inflammation in the female reproductive system might turn into pelvic inflammatory disease, which can then affect other organs in the pelvic cavity. If a blocked tube is left untreated, it’s easy for the healthy tube to become blocked, over time.
Tubal ligation reversal
If a woman’s tubes have been surgically severed and she wants reversal surgery performed, there are many factors that can affect this tubal ligation reversal. That’s why, prior to tubal ligation, surgical teams insist on informing women of the poor chances of reversing the tubal ligation process.
There have been successful tubal ligation reversals. The success of this surgery will highly depend on how the ligation was originally made, when the tubes were tied and the individual characteristics of each woman.
Where do your eggs go if your tubes are blocked?
Although the egg is the biggest human cell, its diameter is no greater than the diameter of a hair. Each month, only one mature egg (sometimes two and, very rarely, three) is released from the ovary, during ovulation. This egg is released in the fymbria, which is the entrance to the fallopian tube. When this entrance is closed, the egg cannot go through and it falls into the pelvic cavity, where it will be reabsorbed.
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