Around a third of women with fertility problems have blocked or damaged fallopian tubes
What is it?
The fallopian tubes connect the ovaries to the womb and are vital for conceiving. When the egg is released from the ovary during your monthly cycle, it needs to travel down the fallopian tube in order to meet the sperm, get fertilised and implant in the lining of the womb.
It’s thought that around a third of women who are struggling to fall pregnant have problems with the fallopian tubes. The most common cause is an infection known as pelvic inflammatory disease (PID).
Other causes include endometriosis, previous surgery and ectopic pregnancy, although Dr Yakoub Khalaf, a consultant in reproductive medicine at Guy’s Hospital in London, points out that the ectopic pregnancy may have happened in the first place because of a blockage in the fallopian tube.
What are the symptoms?
The only way to determine if the fallopian tubes are blocked or damaged is through an ultrasound scan or a special X-ray called a hysterosalpingogram, which uses a dye to pick up any blockages.
This can actually also be used to unblock some fallopian tubes when the blockage is at the junction between the tube and the uterus, provided the rest of the tube is healthy.
A doctor may also suspect a fallopian tube problem if you have had PID or other conditions that put you at risk. Otherwise you wouldn’t necessarily know anything was wrong, as your periods may be regular and all other signs normal – that is until you tried to get pregnant.
What can you do?
Yakoub says the best recommended treatment if you have damaged or blocked fallopian tubes is IVF. ‘Tubal surgery can be done in some cases but, as a rule, it’s not very successful.’
IVF means that doctors can remove eggs from the ovary, fertilise them with sperm in the laboratory and transplant embryos back into the womb, bypassing the need for the fallopian tubes.
See your GP…
If you have been trying to get pregnant for a year with no success or sooner, if you’re over 35 or if you’re concerned you may have fallopian tube damage because of infection.