Causes & Treatment

1 in 3 of us have blocked fallopian tubes (and most get no symptoms) – what to know about the causes, diagnosis, and treatment options

Emma Harpham in partnership with Femasys  |   13 May 2024


1 in 3. That sounds like a lot, doesn’t it? And perhaps surprisingly so – as having blocked fallopian tubes is a silent fertility puzzle piece that often goes unnoticed, getting left out of baseline, early-stage assessments.

This is despite the American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) telling us that tubal disease is a key fertility impacting factor, and should be specifically ruled out.

A leading change-maker here, in terms of testing and advocacy, is Femasys and their innovative FemVue test, that allows your doctor to easily check your tubes, as part of your initial infertility work-up.

We caught up with Kathy Lee-Sepsick, the founder of Femasys, for the 101 on blocked fallopian tubes.

Read on as we cover:

  • Causes of tubal blockage
  • Fallopian tube blockage symptoms
  • Diagnosis and testing 
  • Treatment for blocked fallopian tubes
  • Getting pregnant after a tubal infertility diagnosis

Self-advocacy is key. So let’s get informed, together.

What are blocked fallopian tubes?

Blocked fallopian tubes are the result of scar tissue forming on the inside of the tubes. 

You can have one blocked tube, or both tubes blocked at the same time. Blockages can occur closer to the uterus, or closer to the ovary.

This scar tissue then ‘blocks’ the sperm from fertilizing the egg, resulting in difficulty conceiving and problems with fertility. 

Having blocked fallopian tubes is also known as tubal factor infertility, or TFI.

fallopian-tube-blockage-causes

Fallopian tube blockage causes

Of all the fallopian tube blockage causes, this scarring inside of the tubes most often occurs due to a previous infection, or as a result of abdominal surgery

Other common causes include: 

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Endometriosis
  • Fibroids
  • A previous ectopic pregnancy
  • Previous tubal litigation

Fallopian tube blockage symptoms

Generally speaking, blocked fallopian tubes are asymptomatic

This means that, in contrast to other fertility factors that have clearer signs, you usually won’t notice any obvious symptoms that your fallopian tubes are blocked.

In rare cases, you might experience mild and consistent pain on one side of the abdomen. This can occur with a type of blockage known as a hydrosalpinx, where fluid fills and expands behind a fallopian tube blockage.

Some of the conditions that can contribute to blocked fallopian tubes (like endometriosis and fibroids) also have their own symptoms, which might be more obvious.

When should I get in touch with my medical team?

The main ‘symptom’ of blocked fallopian tubes is difficulty getting pregnant.

So the bottom line is – if you are finding it hard to conceive, it’s a good idea to connect with your doctor for an evaluation.

blocked-fallopian-tubes-symptoms

Testing for and diagnosing blocked fallopian tubes

Your fallopian tubes can be checked using either fluoroscopic X-rays, or an ultrasound

Fluoroscopic X-ray

The current testing standard for blocked fallopian tubes typically involves a hysterosalpingogram (HSG), which is essentially an X-ray of your fallopian tubes. 

During the procedure, your doctor will inject a special dye into your uterus and fallopian tubes. This dye acts like a highlighter, making it easier for your doctor to see any potential blockages on the X-ray. 

With an HSG, you are exposed to radiation and are at risk of an allergic reaction from iodine-based contrast dye. Referrals to radiology can be costly, and you’ll also usually be waiting a while to get your results.

Ultrasound with FemVue

FemVue is a more natural and cost-effective alternative for testing and diagnosing blocked fallopian tubes.

Your gynecologist will use a vaginal ultrasound probe to look at your anatomy. 

They will then clean your cervix and place a thin balloon catheter into your uterine cavity, delivering a gentle saline solution with natural ‘bubbles’ created by FemVue, to determine if your tubes are open, or blocked.

How is the FemVue test changing the current standard, and speeding up diagnosis?

Usually, when you visit your gynecologist for an early-stage fertility consult, they won’t be able to test for fallopian tube blockage right away.

FemVue moves the point of care forward on your fertility journey, as it can be completed in the comfort of your gynecologist’s office, and usually takes less than 15 minutes.

Plus, although this isn’t always the case, FemVue is also known to have the potential to flush and re-open blocked tubes, during the diagnostic process.

The results of the test are available to you (and your partner) immediately and your doctor can discuss possible next steps within the same visit – saving you time and money.

tubal-infertility-diagnosis

Treatment for blocked fallopian tubes

Depending on the underlying cause of your blocked tubes, your doctor may prescribe you antibiotics for any infections, or suggest laparoscopic surgery to remove the blockage.

Options you might be offered include:

  • Salpingostomy – A surgical procedure where the blockage is removed from your fallopian tube, leaving the tube in place.
  • Salpingectomy – A surgical procedure where your tube is removed. This is sometimes suggested to improve your chances for IVF treatment.
  • Fimbrioplasty – A surgical procedure where the blockage is removed from your fallopian tube, but tissue known as the fimbriae is preserved, so that your eggs can move through the tube. This is sometimes suggested if the blockage is near your ovary.
  • Fallopian Tube Recanalization (FTR) –  a non surgical procedure where a catheter is inserted to flush through the blockage.

Certain vitamins and key nutrients have been suggested as natural treatment options for blocked fallopian tubes, and to reduce inflammation in the body. However, these aren’t backed by science.

Can I get pregnant with blocked fallopian tubes? 

For many of us, surgery to open the fallopian tube will remove the blockage and improve our fertility. 

So, it is possible to get pregnant if you have been diagnosed with blocked fallopian tubes, but – frustratingly, and as with so many things in the realm of fertility – it all depends on your unique situation, and where your body is at.

The location of the blockage, and the treatment method your doctor recommends, will both play a role here.

Want to rule out a tubal infertility diagnosis? Ask your doctor about the FemVue test

When it comes to getting a tubal infertility diagnosis (or any other steps forward on your fertility journey, really) self-advocacy, focusing on what you can control and the questions you can ask, is an essential starting point.

Connect with FemVue to access more education and resources, and locate a practice near you that’s already using their ground-breaking test.

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