Causes of Infertility: Fallopian Tube Damage or Blockage

Blockage to or damage in the fallopian tube is one of the causes of infertility. Fallopian tubes play an important role in ovulation, as well as conception. Once the female egg is released from the ovary, one of the fallopian tubes (i.e. the fimbriae) picks up the egg and pushes it to pass through the tube. It is within the fallopian tube where the sperm fertilizes the egg. However, damage in the fallopian tube or a blockage incurred can hamper the fertilization process.

Any form of dysfunction of the fallopian tube such as damage, blockage, scarring or adhesions around the fallopian tube cause infertility.

Fallopian Tube Damage

If the fimbriae of the fallopian tubes are damaged, then it will not be possible for the fimbriae to pick up the released egg and pass it into the fallopian tube. And, in cases where there are adhesions around the fallopian tube, it may reduce or hinder its movement thus affecting the ability of the fimbriae to pick up the released egg from the ovary. Even damage to the cells lining the fallopian tube may make it difficult for the sperm to reach the egg.

Fallopian Tube Blockage

Blockage to the fallopian tube also prevents the sperm from reaching the egg. And, in some cases, it makes it difficult for the fertilized egg or embryo to move to the uterus thus causing ectopic pregnancy (where pregnancy occurs outside the uterus, mostly in the fallopian tube). Blockage of fallopian tubes can be of two kinds:

  • Proximal blockage - blockage occurs close to the uterus
  • Distal blockage - blockage occurs at the fimbriae

Fallopian Tube Scar

The fimbriae have small hair like structures which push the fertilized eggs into the fallopian tube, causing easy movement of the embryo until it reaches the uterus for implantation. When the fallopian tube is scarred, then the traveling of the embryo through the fallopian tube is affected, causing infertility.

Causes of Fallopian Tube Damage

Some of the common causes for fallopian tube damage are:

  • Endometriosis - It is a condition when a cellular lining formed within the fallopian tube (instead of being formed in the uterus) breaks and causes chronic inflammation or adhesions to the tubes, thus leading to severe damage.
  • Previous pelvic infection - Previous pelvic infection causes incidences of hydrosalpinx (when a dilated fluid fills the fallopian tube) causing blockage. When the fluid gets collected within the tube, then the favorable environment of the tube for fertility is lost.
  • Ectopic pregnancy - Previous ectopic pregnancy has high prevalence for causing damage to the fallopian tube.
  • Surgery - Surgeries that involve uterus, ovaries or fallopian tubes can cause adhesions resulting in tubal damage. Even abdominal surgeries sometimes affect the fallopian tubes causing adhesions or damage.

Treatment for Tubal Damage

Since fallopian tube damage causes infertility, there are various options to treat infertility such as IVF or surgery for damaged fallopian tube.

  • IVF - Invitro Fertilization or IVF is the most common option for infertility cases, especially when they are caused by fallopian tube damage. In IVF, the egg is fertilized outside the fallopian tube and is implanted into the uterus.
  • Tubal surgery - In cases where it is possible to correct the damage or blockage in the fallopian tube, tubal surgery is recommended. Tubal surgeries vary such as removing adhesions, scar tissues and correcting fallopian tube blockage.