The Fallopian tubes are amazing female body parts that play a vital role in reproduction. They are fragile, but hardworking J-shaped slender tubes connecting the ovaries to the uterus.
The tubes are mobile, active, and help transport the male sperm cells to the egg. With delicate hair-like structures, their job is to help move the eggs through the tubes to their destination. But how does all this work and what happens if they become blocked?
What is the flow process?
The Mayo Clinic website offers an excellent overview of how pregnancy occurs. Everything in the process must happen correctly for conception:
- One of the two ovaries releases a mature egg.
- The egg is picked up by the fallopian tube.
- Sperm swim up to the cervix, through the uterus, and into the fallopian tubes to reach the egg to fertilize.
- The fertilized egg travels down the tube to the uterus.
- The fertilized egg implants and grows in the uterus.
Why tubes may become blocked?
There are several factors that can disrupt the process at any step, causing infertility. Sometimes a blockage prevents the sperm from reaching the egg, or it can prevent a fertilized egg from reaching the uterus. This can lead to female infertility. Blocked tubes are responsible for 25—30% of all infertility cases.
The tubes are usually blocked by scar tissue or pelvic adhesions. These can be caused by many factors according to Healthline:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs)
- Past ectopic pregnancy*
- Past abdominal surgery
* Sometimes, a blockage in a tube can cause an egg to get stuck. This is called an Ectopic Pregnancy.
Where can the tubes become blocked?
Harvard Health outlines that the tubes may become blocked at various locations, including:
- At the end of the tube, near where it’s connected to the uterus
- At the end of the tube, near the ovary
- The entire tube (in severe cases)
What causes pain in the tubes?
A blocked tube may cause some women to experience symptoms such as pain in the pelvis or belly. This pain might happen regularly, around the time of their period, or be constant. Endometriosis, for example, often causes very painful, heavy periods and pelvic pain which can increase your risk for blocked tubes.
Are there lifestyles factors that can cause infertility?
Womenshealth.gov advises that there are factors that can have a negative effect including: smoking, alcohol use, weighing much more or much less than an ideal body weight, a lot of strenuous exercising, eating disorders and stress.
How is a blocked tube treated?
Your Ob-Gyn will discuss the best course for treatment after evaluation and consultation. To determine if a tube is blocked, your doctor may suggest a special x-ray called an HSG, laparoscopy or an in-office procedure called a Hysteroscopy. For more damaged tubes, surgical treatment may be advised.
The fallopian tubes are a great passageway for the egg and sperm to travel and meet. Keeping them healthy is important for female fertility.