The fallopian tubes are not mere passages for the egg to travel from the ovaries to the uterus. It is here that conception occurs and hence healthy fallopian tubes are essential for the fertilization of an egg.
Damaged fallopian tubes are the most common cause of infertility. This damage can fall under three categories.
- Blocked fallopian tubes
- One blocked and one open fallopian tube
- Tubal scarring
The third is usually an effect of pelvic infections or natural healing after a pelvic surgery. Sadly, in most cases, this condition is discovered only after infertility has been diagnosed. Other causes of fallopian tubal scarring include:
- STDs such as chlamydia trachomatis and neisseria gonorrhea
- Adhesions caused by ruptured ovarian cysts
- A history of ectopic pregnancies
Fallopian tubal scarring has no recognizable symptoms. Chronic pelvic pain is the only known symptom of this damage and that too can be seen only in severe cases of tubal scarring. On diagnosing infertility, your doctor will perform one of these tests to determine the condition of your fallopian tubes.
- Hysterosalpingogram: This is a type of X-ray. Your doctor will open the vagina with a speculum and inject a liquid into the uterus with the help of a catheter. If the liquid does not pass through the fallopian tubes, it is said to be blocked. This however, does not say much about tubal scarring.
- Laparoscopy: A small incision is made below the belly button and a slim, flexible tube with a camera is passed through the incision. This gives your doctor a clear view of the condition of your fallopian tubes. A laparoscopy can also be used to rule out other causes of infertility such as endometriosis or blocked fallopian tubes.
Treatment for infertility caused by tubal scarring is of two types:
- Surgery: This is suggested in cases where tubal scarring is minimal. Depending on the intensity and placement of scar tissue, your doctor may decide to perform one of many types of surgeries. He may choose to remove the scarred section of the fallopian tube, create a new opening (in case of blockages) or rebuild the damaged edges of the fallopian tubes.
- In Vitro Fertilization(IVF): Women with badly scarred fallopian tubes usually have poor chances of conceiving naturally. Hence, IVF is the preferred treatment route. However, your doctor may still advise you to undergo surgery and remove the damaged tubes prior to IVF to prevent the tubes from filling with fluid.