Tubal infections can hamper fertility. Ladies, practice only safe sex please!

Published on: 4 December 2021, 18:00 pm IST

Tubal infections are common, and occur when the fallopian tubes get infected. In fact, these can cause fertility issues, so watch out.

tubal infections
Know all about pelvic inflammatory disease and how it affects fertility. Image courtesy: Shutterstock
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Fallopian tubes are channels that transport the oocyte (the egg) from the ovaries to the uterus in the female reproductive system. They play an important role in the fertilisation process. Tubal infections, also known as salpingitis, occur when the fallopian tubes get infected and inflamed due to the bacteria acquired via vaginal intercourse. It is one of the major causes of female infertility.

What are the primary causes?

The main cause of tubal infections is the bacteria that may enter a woman’s reproductive system due to:

  1. Unprotected sexual intercourse
  2. Sexually transmitted diseases. For example: chlamydia and gonorrhea. Other less common causes may be events where the barrier created by the cervix gets disturbed. Miscarriage, abortion, or childbirth could be instances, where the bacteria can get introduced into the reproductive system.

The impact of tubal infections on fertility

Damage to the fallopian tubes will affect the chances of getting pregnant. Unfortunately, many women do not even realise that they have salpingitis until they visit their doctor, because in most cases there may not be noteworthy symptoms. If not treated on time, the infection will cause permanent damage to the fallopian tube. Long-term complications can include scarring and blockage of the tubes, so the eggs released in every menstrual cycle cannot meet the sperm, causing infertility. There is also the risk of the infection spreading to other areas like the uterus and ovaries.
Therefore, it is advisable to routinely undergo STI screening tests for prevention, and be on the lookout for the below symptoms:

  1. Abnormal vaginal discharge
  2. Discharge having unusual colour and smell
  3. Pain during intercourse
  4. Lower abdominal irritation like pain, bloating, cramping
  5. Fever
  6. Painful menstruation
  7. Abnormal and frequent urination
  8. Feeling nauseous
  9. Spotting (vaginal bleeding that happens outside your periods)

    tubal infections
    Tubal infections can cause issues in fertility, so be careful. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

How can this condition be diagnosed?

It is crucial to consult your doctor as soon as possible to avoid severe complications. Your doctor will make a note of your medical history and sexual habits. Disclose the symptoms you may be experiencing even if they are mild. After a physical examination to determine the level of inflammation and tenderness, certain tests will be recommended which may include:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Mucus swab to identify the type of bacteria responsible for the infection
    An ultrasound to examine the images of the fallopian tubes and other organs of the reproductive system
  • Abdominal or pelvic X-ray
  • Laparoscopy, which is a minor surgical procedure that helps the doctor to visually examine the tubes and other organs of the reproductive system

How can it be treated?

Depending on the seriousness of the infection, the treatment for tubal infection may include:

  1. Prescription of antibiotics that will clear the infection
  2. You may require hospitalisation, if there is a need to administer the antibiotics intravenously
  3. If the drug treatment does not solve the issue, the doctors may perform a surgery to remove the damaged area/ fluids from the tubes.

    What are some of the complications, if left untreated?

Apart from infertility, tubal damage can lead to some severe complications like:

  1. Chronic pelvic and abdomen pain
  2. Swelling and forming of pus (abscesses) in the tubes
  3. Ectopic pregnancy, a kind of pregnancy where a fertilized egg does not attach to the uterus due to damage or blockage to the fallopian tubes. If left untreated, an ectopic pregnancy could result in a medical emergency risking the woman’s life.
Abdomen pain
Pelvic and abdomen pain can cause severe discomfort. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

The last word

To avoid risking your health and fertility due to tubal infections, always practice safe sex using condoms to protect against sexually transmitted diseases. Being aware of the symptoms and getting regularly tested for STIs will also be beneficial for early detection and treatment. You should ask your partner to get tested as well. Awareness and timely treatment are the key, therefore consult your doctor on information regarding prevention and treatment.

Dr Rohit Gutgutia Dr Rohit Gutgutia

Dr Rohit Gutgutia, Medical Director at Nova IVF Fertility, Eastern India

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