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How Blocked Fallopian Tubes Affect Fertility

Loving mother holding newborn baby
Fertility is a complex system that relies on a number of physical processes and functions to go right one after the other in order to successfully achieve a pregnancy. The fallopian tubes play an integral role in the conception process, but blockages can prevent them from functioning normally. What are the causes of blocked fallopian tubes? How do you know if your fallopian tubes are blocked? What can you do to fix this problem? Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about blocked fallopian tubes including symptoms and feasible treatment options.

What Are Fallopian Tubes and What Is Their Role in Fertility?

The female anatomy typically consists of a uterus, fallopian tubes, ovaries, a cervix, vagina, clitoris, labium minus, and labium majus. The ovaries are responsible for producing healthy eggs. Once one of the eggs matures, it enters into one of the fallopian tubes where it’s fertilized by sperm. There are two fallopian tubes, one stationed on each side of the uterus. The fallopian tubes essentially connect the ovaries to the uterus. After being fertilized, the egg moves through the fallopian tubes directly into the uterus where it will be implanted for the duration of the pregnancy.

To summarize, the purpose of the fallopian tubes is to act as a channel for the fertilized egg to move into the uterus.

How Do Blocked Fallopian Tubes Impact Fertility?

Approximately 30% of women experience blockages or obstructions in their fallopian tubes. This condition is also referred to as tubal factor infertility. It occurs when there’s an obstruction in one or both of the fallopian tubes that prevents the fertilized egg from passing through into the uterus for implantation.

Sperm also needs to move through the cervix and the uterus to get to the egg in the fallopian tubes. If there’s a partial or complete blockage on either side, this will prevent the sperm from reaching and making contact with the egg, which can also prevent pregnancy.

Fully blocked fallopian tubes make it nearly impossible to get pregnant. However, if the fallopian tubes are only partially blocked, pregnancy might still occur. Unfortunately, that can also increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy, which can be extremely dangerous for the woman. One blocked fallopian tube most likely won’t impede fertilization or the pregnancy process as the egg and the sperm can still travel through the unblocked tube. With certain fertility treatments, you can increase your chances of conceiving by coercing both the egg and the sperm to move through the unblocked tube.

What Causes Blockages in the Fallopian Tubes?

There are a number of factors and conditions that can lead to blocked fallopian tubes. Scar tissue and pelvic adhesions caused by the following conditions can form inside the fallopian tubes, preventing the passage of sperm and a fertilized egg.
  • Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). As the most common cause of fallopian tube blockage, PID leads to scar tissue formations inside the fallopian tubes. Although not all PIDs are necessarily linked to sexually transmitted diseases, that’s usually the primary culprit behind this infection. Sometimes, scar tissue formations can still occur even after the infection has cleared up. Once a patient has had PID, their risk of pelvic infections increases. PID could also lead to hydrosalpinx, which is a specific kind of fallopian tube blockage that’s characterized by mild or severe lower abdominal pain or abnormal vaginal discharge.
  • Previous abdominal surgery. Surgery in the abdominal area or involving the fallopian tubes can increase the chances of developing pelvic adhesions inside the fallopian tubes.
  • Endometriosis. Endometriosis is another common condition that many women endure. It can cause scar tissue inside the fallopian tubes and on the outside of other organs. Endometrial scar tissue that forms on other organs can also spread to the interior of the fallopian tubes if left untreated.
  • Fibroids. Another common condition, fibroids are benign tumours or growths that form inside the uterus during a woman’s childbearing years. Despite being harmless, they can wreak havoc on the menstrual cycle and reproductive system in a number of ways, including by blocking the fallopian tubes.
  • Previous ectopic pregnancy. Women who have previously experienced an ectopic pregnancy are at a higher risk of having blocked fallopian tubes.
  • Sexually transmitted infections or diseases. Scar tissue is a symptom of STIs or STDs like chlamydia and gonorrhea. It can also lead to PID if not properly treated.

What Are the Symptoms of Blocked Fallopian Tubes?

Interestingly, there are no discernible symptoms that indicate whether a woman’s fallopian tubes are blocked. Prolonged and inexplicable infertility is actually the main indicator that there may be a blockage or issue concerning the fallopian tubes.

If you’ve been trying to get pregnant for about six months to a year without success, then your doctor may recommend fertility treatments like IVF or IUI.

After ruling out all other health and medical conditions (e.g., being overweight, endometriosis, etc.), women over the age of 35 who are having a hard time conceiving even with these treatments should have their fallopian tubes examined for potential blockages. This process involves getting a hysterosalpingograhy (HSG) x-ray that specifically examines the interior of the fallopian tubes to identify certain types of blockages in order to diagnose their causes.

A fertility specialist or your doctor will inject a coloured dye directly into your uterus and fallopian tubes so that they get a better idea of what’s happening inside your fallopian tubes. To ensure complete accuracy, this procedure typically takes place during the first few days of the menstrual cycle.

How Do Doctors Treat Blocked Fallopian Tubes?

Several blocked fallopian tube treatment options are available depending on the severity of your specific condition. If your fallopian tubes are only partially blocked or only one tube is obstructed, then your chances of achieving a successful full-term pregnancy are pretty good. Laparoscopic surgery can be performed to remove small portions of scar tissue and adhesions inside your fallopian tubes. If only one tube is blocked, then you may be able to avoid surgery altogether as your doctor may prescribe fertility drugs to achieve pregnancy via intercourse. Barring that, IVF and IUI may also be an option. If both of your fallopian tubes are completely blocked by scar tissue or adhesions, scar tissue and adhesion removal might be impossible. In this case, IVF and IUI are your best bet as they don’t require use of the fallopian tubes.

Get Blocked Fallopian Tube Treatment at a Top Fertility Clinic in Ontario

If you’re having a hard time getting pregnant and don’t know why, ONE Fertility Kitchener Waterloo is here to help. At our fertility clinic in Ontario, we provide compassionate and thorough patient care. Our goal is to make sure that you and your partner are fully educated on all of your fertility treatment options so that you can make the right choice for your growing family. Book an appointment with a fertility specialist at our clinic today.


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