It is one of the main obstacles to pregnancy, as it prevents the egg and sperm from meeting.

The fallopian tubes are two thin, flexible tubes about 12 centimetres long that connect the ovaries to the uterus. Normally, fertilisation takes place in the fallopian tubes, where the sperm fertilises the egg. Once the embryo is formed, it is transported to the uterus for implantation and development.

It is an organ which must be fully functional in order to fall pregnant naturally. Less than 10% of the population find themselves suffering from blocked fallopian tubes.


Causes

•  Salpingitis

This is the inflammation and obstruction of the tubes due to an infection, often caused by sexual transmitted diseases, such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea.

•  Hydrosalpinx

Sometimes the tubes become blocked by adhesions (such as endometriosis or fibroids). It can also be caused by damage from pelvic surgery. Blockages also cause fluid to accumulate within the tubal circuit. It can be unilateral (affecting one of the two tubes) or bilateral (when both tubes are affected).

•  Congenital obstruction

The cause may be a morphological abnormality at birth, often referred to as congenital blockage.

•  Damage

Damage, such as those caused by miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy, can also affect the tubes and cause them to become blocked.

Diagnosis and solution

There is a test to find out whether a woman suffers from tubal obstruction: hysterosalpingography. This consists of passing a contrast fluid through a catheter into the uterus and fallopian tubes. The area is then x-rayed and the condition of the fallopian tubes can be seen. It is a simple procedure that does not require anaesthesia.

If an obstruction is found, the doctor will suggest a solution, depending on the cause and extent of the obstruction. One option is surgery to remove the obstruction. In some cases, In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF) may be necessary to achieve pregnancy.