Fallopian tubes are nothing short of amazing. Each tube is about 10 cm long and 5 mm or so wide and is lined with tiny hair-like cilia that beat vigorously to waft the embryo along in perfect time. The wafting cilia are helped by the muscular contractions of the tube which together help the embryo to move along.
Simultaneously, the tubes secrete a blend of nutrient-rich fluids to feed the rapidly growing embryo which is then detained at a specific point along the tube for a period of intensive nourishment. The whole process of tubal nourishment, holding and movement takes about 4 days.
A HSG (hysterosalpingogram) is commonly used to establish whether you tubes are clear - or not - by flushing a water-based dye through both tubes. This creates an X-ray image of the flow of the dye which shows the dye either spilling out the end of the tube, or being blocked and unable to pass through.
The way that the dye spills into the pelvis when it exits the tube can be revealing also, the 'spill pattern' can reveal possible areas of scar tissue or adhesions where the dye pools in pockets.
However, an HSG can only tell if your tubes are clear - or relaxed - enough for fluid to pass through. A HSG cannot tell whether the tube is functional, whether the cilia waft the embryo along vigorously enough, hold it at the appropriate place for the right amount of time and secrete the right nutrients for healthy embryo development. A clear HSG does not mean that your tubes are working optimally, it just means that they are clear.
PID can be caused by sexually transmitted organisms the most common of which is Chlamydia, currently the most common sexually transmitted disease. Chlamydia is often symptomless in women allowing the organism to cause blocked tubes before you even know that you have a hidden infection. An antibody test can show if you have had a prior infection with chlamydia.
It is very common for tubes to be blocked in some way, shape or form. Tubal factor infertility is very common and has various causes and manifestations. A frequent cause of blocked fallopian tubes is current or historical pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) which can cause inflammation and scarring within the tube long after the infection is cleared. Active infections can be subtle and hidden making accurate diagnosis tricky.
A diagnosis of blocked tubes can be real or false. The tiny tubes can spasm, or plug with mucus which creates the appearance of a blockage but the blockage may be only temporary. A repeat HSG should always be ordered to confirm the diagnosis if the tubes appear blocked. If a tube is intermittently blocked on HSG you might be a good candidate for natural treatments.
Natural treatments for tube blockages are ideally suited to tubes that spasm, are prone to mucus plugs or are intermittently blocked. If there is infection, antibiotics and conventional medicine is essential to stop the progression of disease. It is always important to have a full diagnostic work-up before choosing a treatment strategy as inappropriately treated tubal infections can cause irreversible damage.
If a tube is suffering due to scar tissue, adhesions and damage due to a historical infection, natural methods can sometimes help immensely. Some women have had pregnancy success naturally even when the blockage was thought to be severe. I have seen at least one client who had been diagnosed with severely blocked tubes and advised to pursue IVF - which failed - who went on to conceive naturally after some months of natural treatments.
Even if IVF is the chosen route to conception, the health of the tubes are still important. If a tube is infected it can contain toxic fluids accumulations - called a hydrosalpynx - this fluid can leak into the uterus making conception difficult even with IVF. Any tube infections must be thoroughly evaluated and treated before pursuing IVF which sometimes requires removal of the tube if a hydrosalpynx is present.
Many women have partially or intermittently blocked tubes that may be responsive to natural healing techniques when natural conception is desired, or when IVF is simply not an option. Here is an overview of the techniques I have used in my acupuncture practice - or have referred clients to receive - that have been helpful:
1. Clear Passage. This unusual healing system has an excellent reputation for restoring fallopian tube health and is a form of intensive physical therapy. The work of Clear Passage has been the subject of a number of scientific studies, the results of which were very positive.
Patients receive specialized physical therapy every day in a week long intensive administered by specially trained physical therapists. Treatments involve bodywork directly over the fallopian tubes and ovaries, and much of the work is done internally to directly loosen scar tissue and adhesions on the ligaments, tubes and ovaries. It is potent work, I have had a number of clients do the one week intensive and they have found it to be very powerful and profoundly relaxing.
2. Maya Massage. The beauty of this massage technique - which is performed externally over the low abdomen - is that the practitioner can teach you how to do the massage technique yourself so treatment can be applied daily. This is a noninvasive technique.
Simply having one Maya massage session can teach you how to treat yourself every day which can have huge impact on circulation because of the frequency with which you can apply the technique. The Maya massage also works on the lower back and the sacrum, a nerve rich area that affects the blood flow. A helpful practitioner may let your partner learn this part of the massage so your partner can work on you daily also.
3. Enzymes. An enzyme called serrapeptase is a powerful anti-inflammatory with a reputation for helping to dissolve and break down scar tissue and adhesions and calm inflammation thought to be a factor in many tube problems. When using enzymes for their anti-inflammatory benefits they must be taken on an empty stomach and caution should be used if you take blood thinning medication (enzymes are also natural blood thinners) or have stomach ulcers.
4. Mucus-reducing diet. Some Chinese and Ayurvedic experts feel that following a diet which eliminates dairy and other foods and beverages which are thought to increase mucus production may be helpful for keeping the pelvis clear of blockages. Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine are both rooted in the belief that your diet can create a build up of 'dampness,' 'phlegm,' or 'ama' in your body which is associated with blockages such as blocked tubes. These traditional medicine systems believe that your diet can promote pelvic circulation - or congestion - depending on what kinds of food choices you make every day.
A diet based upon white flour products, sugar and dairy foods - especially if iced - think grilled cheese sandwiches, pizza, cookies, cheesy pasta dishes and ice cream is thought to be especially mucus-forming. You can read about the healing dietary principles of Chinese Medicine in 'The Infertility Cure,' by Randine Lewis and 'Making Babies,' by Jill Blakeway and Dr. Sami David, M.D. Be sure to ask your physician or consult a dietitian before making any radical diet changes, some fertility docs actually recommend dairy free diets while others don't. If you are advised to cut out dairy be sure to ask your physician or dietitian about calcium replacement.
5. Chinese herbal medicine. Herbs can be used to resolve damp, phlegm, Qi, and blood stagnation which are the principal elements thought to cause tube blockages in Chinese medicine.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine herbal formulas are individualized to treat more effectively, some women may need cooling herbs and others warming, some need more focus on phlegm accumulations and others on Qi stagnation. Consulting an herbalist who specializes in fertility will help you to get good care, check the ABORM web site for practitioners in your area. While such formulas need to be prescribed by a qualified herbalist, some herbs can be used in teas on a daily basis.
6. Adjunctive therapies. Phlegm and mucus thinning products such as Robitussin which are frequently used to thin cervical mucus and bronchial phlegm may have a helpful effect on thinning mucus within blocked tubes. Castor oil packs have been used by many women directly over the tubes and although messy are worth trying alongside the other measures.
7. Electro-acupuncture. This is a powerful technique where tiny electrical pulses are transmitted through acupuncture needles to stimulate the area around the fallopian tubes and ovaries. An acupuncturist who specializes in fertility (check ABORM - American Board Of Oriental Reproductive Medicine website for listings) will be familiar with this technique. I use this technique often and find it to be very helpful.
This article is for purely educational and informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for medical diagnosis or medical or dietetic advice for which you should consult a physician or dietitian.
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