Back to the basics
During every menstrual cycle, a woman releases 1 or more eggs from the ovaries. The egg passes through the fallopian tubes, where fertilization can take place if sperm is present. The resulting embryo then implants in the uterus, and pregnancy can be confirmed shortly after that. Most women are born with 2 ovaries and 2 fallopian tubes. However, in some cases, a woman is born with 1 or no fallopian tube, or the tube can become blocked due to illness or injury.
No way through
During fetal development, something called fallopian tube agenesis, a müllerian anomaly can occur, resulting in the absence of 1 or both fallopian tubes. Other reasons for tube blockage include past pelvic surgery, fibroids, ectopic pregnancy, pelvic inflammatory diseases (PID), certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs), and endometriosis. A missing or blocked tube usually does not result in noticeable symptoms, except for infertility.
Diagnosing a blockage
If fertility concerns arise, a doctor can perform a pelvic exam and ultrasound to visualize the fallopian tubes. Another standard procedure used to diagnose a blockage is a procedure called a hysterosalpingogram (HSG), which uses a combination of x-ray and dye to see the affected area. In some cases, an HSG can help clear minor blockages. If scar tissue or adhesions are present, laparoscopic surgery may be recommended to open the affected tube. Surgery can also help when a previous ectopic pregnancy has caused significant damage.
How IVF can help
During in vitro fertilization, the patient is usually given medication to stimulate the ovaries to produce multiple eggs. The eggs are then extracted and combined with sperm in a lab. Once a stable embryo has developed for 3-5 days, the doctor inserts the embryo directly into the uterus. This approach does not require the use of the fallopian tubes for transport. This means pregnancy is still possible if a blockage is present or if a woman only has 1 or no tubes.
Using science to get pregnant
In the past, blocked or missing tubes meant pregnancy was quite unlikely. Nowadays, pregnancy is possible with the help of IVF treatment. By avoiding the tubes and placing the embryo directly into the uterus, a baby is possible for women with this condition.