The science of fallopian tubes
Your fallopian tubes hug your uterus, connecting to its upper corners and extending like two arms down to each side’s ovary. Neat fact: your fallopian tubes don’t actually connect to your ovaries! At their ends, the tubes are covered in feathery fringes called “fimbria”. The fimbria catch the egg released from the ovary, and are where the egg and sperm can make contact.
Inside your fallopian tubes, there are millions of hair-like fibers. With help from the tubes’ muscles, the fibers pull the sperm-fertilized egg from the fimbria and carry it into the uterus.
By this point in the menstrual cycle, your hormones will have prepared your uterus’ walls for the fertilized egg to burrow in and implant. The embryo stays here, nourished and protected, until it’s a full-grown baby ready for birth.
In about 25% of infertility cases, a fallopian tube is blocked. Blocked tubes prevent the egg from traveling. Usually the blockage is scar tissue from a past pelvic or abdominal infection or surgery – so if that sounds like you, it’s better to get checked out sooner rather than later. Otherwise, there’s no reason to worry about your fallopian tubes: these blockages almost never happen without a history like that.
Although it’s possible to test for blocked fallopian tubes, this problem has no symptoms to alert you. Knowing your history, however, is useful.
Untreated pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is a common precursor, and is itself caused by chlamydia and gonorrhea. Similarly, if you’ve been diagnosed with inflammatory bowel disease, endometriosis, or have had any pelvic procedures (such as sterilization), you may want to get checked out by your doctor.
In rare cases, appendicitis and other general abdominal infections or surgeries have been known to cause the growth of scar tissue on or around the fallopian tubes.
The test to check whether your tubes are blocked is pretty straightforward. Your cervix is filled with a dye that special X-rays can “see”. Under the X-ray, the doctor can see how far the dye travels and whether it seems to run into an blockage. However, this test can be unreliable, so it may need to be done a few times.
Tubal blockages can make natural conception pretty hard, but it’s still possible to carry a baby and have a healthy pregnancy through IVF. If you’re planning of having multiple kids, however, you may want to explore the possibility of surgically opening your tubes.
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