Untreated infection in women poses long-term health risks that can lead to blocked fallopian tubes and infertility.
The gynaecologists also noted that surgery to open up blocked fallopian tubes is not usually successful and could cause ectopic pregnancy.
To avoid tubal blockage and its attendant health consequences, they advised that once an infection is detected, it should be properly treated at a certified healthcare facility and by a qualified physician.
The fallopian tubes are two thin tubes, one on each side of the uterus, which help lead the mature egg from the ovaries to the uterus.
When an obstruction prevents the egg from travelling down the tube, the woman has a blocked fallopian tube. It can occur on one or both sides. This is also known as tubal factor infertility and is the cause of infertility in 40 per cent of infertile women.
Speaking during an interview with PUNCH HealthWise, a Professor of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at the Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Solomon Avidime, said untreated pelvic inflammatory disease could lead to blocked fallopian tubes and cause infertility.
He also noted that unsafe abortion and postpartum infection could also lead to tubal blockage and emphasised the need for women to know that no infection is small.
He stated that any infection around the womb that can find its way into the fallopian tubes is capable of causing extensive damage to them.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, one in 10 women with pelvic inflammatory infection becomes infertile. It stated:
“PID can cause scarring of the fallopian tubes. This scarring can block the tubes and prevent an egg from being fertilised.”
Mayo Clinic, a non-profit American academic medical centre, noted that damaged or blocked fallopian tubes can stop sperm from getting to the egg or block the passage through which a fertilised egg can get into the uterus.
Further speaking on the adverse effect of untreated infection, Prof. Avidime said,
“All infections should be treated because if they are not, the long term effect is tubal blockage and it affects pregnancy chances.
“What makes the tubes to get blocked is infection. Once the fallopian tubes are blocked, it means that it becomes impossible for the spermatozoa to meet with the eggs in their original position, where they can be fertilised and transported back into the womb.
“This is because the tubes are blocked and the woman will find it difficult to conceive naturally.”
The maternal health specialist, however, said women with blocked fallopian tubes can conceive through the help of assistive reproductive technology. He said:
“Women with blocked fallopian tubes are offered In Vitro Fertilisation and embryo transplant. Those diagnosed with tubal blockage should seek help from fertility experts, who will conduct series of evaluations and predict their chances of getting pregnant.
Lots of tests are conducted by doctors to ascertain if there is tubal blockage. Once it is confirmed, other means of getting pregnant would be suggested to the woman.”
Prof. Avidime noted that there are women with tubal blockage, who still carry out surgery in an attempt to open them up to function despite the risk involved.
“But surgery of tubal blockage is usually not successful and can cause ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition, such that if it is not handled quickly, the woman involved can die.”
Prof. Avidime highlighted sexually transmitted infections that can damage fallopian tubes, noting that they include staphylococcus, gonorrhea and Chlamydia.
He, thereafter, counselled again,
“Once a woman has an infection, it must be properly treated. Blocked fallopian tube is most common in women in low-income countries. This is because of the prevalence of infections. It is the major cause of infertility among women in Africa.”
A Senior Lecturer at the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, College of Medicine, University of Lagos, Dr. Ochuwa Babah, said gonorrhea should be immediately treated in women once it is detected because of the magnitude of complications associated with not having it treated.
Dr. Babah said women with the infection should avoid self-medication, urging them to seek proper medical care from qualified medical personnel.
The World Health Organisation says, with over one million sexually transmitted infections occurring daily globally, it is vital for countries to tackle this challenge in order to achieve the Sustainable Development Goal 3 on universal access to sexual and reproductive healthcare services.