Common Causes of Infertility in Women

Fallopian Tube Problems

The fallopian tubes are the tubes that carry the egg from the ovary to the uterus. Sperm travel up these tubes to fertilize an egg. Any condition that damages or blocks the fallopian tubes can interfere with fertility by preventing the egg and sperm from moving through the tube and joining together. If the egg and sperm can't meet, pregnancy cannot occur. Fallopian tube problems account for about 30 percent of infertility cases in women.
One of the more common causes of fallopian tube damage is pelvic adhesions. Pelvic adhesions are bands of scar tissue that form in the pelvic area and cause internal tissue or organs that normally aren't connected to bond to each other. They can form as a result of anything that causes inflammation. The most common causes include:
  • Pelvic surgery
  • Infections
  • Appendicitis (especially if the appendix ruptured)
  • Endometriosis.
Pelvic inflammatory disease can also damage the fallopian tubes. Pelvic inflammatory disease is a general term used to describe an infection of the female reproductive organs -- the uterus, fallopian tubes, or ovaries. It occurs when bacteria find a way upward from the urethra and cervix into the reproductive organs. Gonorrhea and chlamydia, two very common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), are usually responsible for causing pelvic inflammatory disease.
Pelvic adhesions and pelvic inflammatory disease also increase the risk for ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus. In most cases, ectopic pregnancies occur in the fallopian tubes. This can happen if scar tissue traps the fertilized egg, keeping it in the fallopian tubes. Unfortunately, if an ectopic pregnancy occurs, the pregnancy cannot continue. A fetus cannot survive outside the uterus, and the pregnancy material must be removed to avoid potentially serious complications.
If you have tubal blockage or scarring, your healthcare provider may recommend surgery to remove the scar tissue and open the tubes, which could improve your chances of becoming pregnant. However, scar tissue may reform after surgery, or your tubes may be too damaged for surgery. In these cases, or if surgery fails, in vitro fertilization may be an option. 
Last reviewed by: Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
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