Causes of Infertility in Men
A Quick Look at Blocked Fallopian Tubes, Ectopic Pregnancy & More
Fallopian tubes are the tubal structures that connect a woman’s ovaries to her uterus. Fully functional fallopian tubes are extremely important to a woman’s ability to become pregnant and are where sperm and eggs initially meet before an embryo later travels to attach to the uterus.
Blocked fallopian tubes are the cause of about 35 percent of female infertility cases. When one or both of the woman’s fallopian tubes are blocked, it is known as tubal factor infertility . Our Parryscope® technique is excellent at finding fallopian tube blockage and can pick up problems that other tests might miss.
Ectopic pregnancy refers to when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus rather than in it, oftentimes within one of the fallopian tubes. Sometimes referred to as tubal pregnancy, ectopic pregnancies are sometimes the result of blocked fallopian tubes.
Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is one of the leading causes of blocked fallopian tubes. PID is a serious infection that develops when certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) or other infections aren’t treated. This can cause irritation and scarring that blocks fallopian tubes or puts women at higher risk of other forms of infertility.
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The Effects of Blocked Fallopian Tubes on Fertility
The fallopian tubes are vital to the proper function of the female reproductive system. Women have two fallopian tubes, one connecting each ovary on each side of the uterus.
Each month a mature egg is released from the ovary in a process known as ovulation. The egg travels into one of the fallopian tubes, where it joins the male sperm for fertilization. The resulting embryo then travels through the tube to the uterus to implant for pregnancy.
When one or both tubes are blocked, it can cause infertility by either preventing the egg from being fertilized or preventing the resulting embryo from traveling to the uterus. Blocked fallopian tubes can also result in complications like ectopic pregnancy.
Most women are unaware that they have blocked fallopian tubes until they have difficulty conceiving, largely due to the fact that there are very few symptoms or indicators that the fallopian tubes are blocked. One of the most common reasons for blocked fallopian tubes is previous chlamydia infection, and 85 percent of women who’ve had this infection don’t realize they’ve had it.
Ectopic pregnancy is the most common complication of blocked fallopian tubes, and it’s estimated that just 2 percent of pregnancies are ectopic.
A viable pregnancy results when the embryo completes its journey to the uterus attaches itself into the uterine lining, and continues to grow.
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the embryo implants in the wrong location, and in most cases the embryo implants within the fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancies can be the result of blocked fallopian tubes or a number of other risk factors including:
- Existence of scar tissue within the fallopian tubes.
- Advanced maternal age (35 years or older).
- Previous ectopic pregnancies.
- Untreated STDs or pelvic inflammatory disease.
- Smoking cigarettes.
Though exceptionally rare, having an IUD or tubal ligation and then becoming pregnant can result in an ectopic pregnancy.
Depending on the severity, treatment, and condition of the fallopian tubes after an ectopic pregnancy, most women can achieve a healthy pregnancy in the future. It is important to note that women who have had an ectopic pregnancy do have an increased risk of having another ectopic pregnancy.
If women have internal scarring in their tubes and get an ectopic pregnancy after a long period of subfertility, the ectopic pregnancy is often in the better of their two tubes, damaging it. For this reason, if having a tube removed (salpingectomy) for ectopic pregnancy, it is important to ask the doctor performing the surgery how the rest of the pelvis and the other tube look.
In vitro fertilization (IVF) can be a great option for women whose fallopian tubes were removed or damaged due to an ectopic pregnancy. This is often needed more frequently in women who have had an ectopic pregnancy because the affected tube takes damage from the ectopic and the other tube may be damaged from conditions that led to the ectopic pregnancy.
Ectopic Pregnancy Symptoms
A woman’s fallopian tubes cannot functionally or structurally support the growth of a fetus. Ectopic pregnancies pose a great risk to the mother, must be treated immediately, and are the number one cause of pregnancy-related death in the first trimester. Symptoms of ectopic pregnancy include:
- Sharp, cramping, or stabbing pain in the pelvis or abdomen. Pain may also occur in the shoulder and neck after an ectopic pregnancy has ruptured.
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting.
- Gastrointestinal symptoms.
- Weakness, dizziness, or fainting.
If you believe you are experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, seek emergency medical assistance immediately.