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Laparoscopy 101: Understanding the Important Fertility Procedure

Infertility isn’t uncommon. That being said, it can be difficult for fertility experts to detect what the exact reason for infertility can be sometimes. The laparoscopy is an effective tool for helping fertility experts uncover the complications that might be causing infertility for a number of women.

January 24, 2020
Jenalee Janes

Infertility isn’t uncommon. That being said, it can be difficult for fertility experts to detect what the exact reason for infertility can be sometimes. The laparoscopy is an effective tool for helping fertility experts uncover the complications that might be causing infertility for a number of women.

In this article, we’ll discuss:

  • How laparoscopies work
  • The risks they entail
  • How they can make for simple fixes to common infertility problems

What Happens During a Laparoscopy

As far as surgical procedures go, the laparoscopy is fairly simple. Usually conducted in a hospital or an emergency clinic, it only requires 2-3 incisions and is fairly non-invasive.

The Procedure

Before the procedure begins, a surgeon will administer anesthesia to make sure the patient is unconscious and unable to feel pain. Once the anesthesia has been given, a surgeon will then inject a special gas into the patient’s abdomen in order to make organs and structures more visible during the procedure.

Afterwards, they will then make two small incisions in the abdomen. The first will act as an entryway for a small camera attached to an instrument called a laparoscope, so that the images can be projected onto a larger screen. A probe is inserted through the second incision, and it helps shift organs around to make any potential abnormalities or fertility complications more visible.

Depending on what the surgeon can or cannot see, additional steps may need to be taken. Typically, if an issue arises that is easily fixable--and in most cases it will be--a surgeon can make a third incision and fix it right there. Once the procedure is finished, the surgeon will remove all the tools and stitch up all of the incisions.

Post-Procedure

After the procedure, a patient will have to remain under observation for a few hours, just to make sure that there have been no complications and their recovery is going as it should. Once the doctor has deemed them fit to leave, a patient is free to go--but they will need another person to drive them home. They should also have someone who is able to stay with them for the first 24 hours to make sure no complications arise later.

Some pain and discomfort are common after this kind of surgery, but making sure to get up and walk around, as well as drinking peppermint tea, can help to alleviate these. More serious complications--such as fever, heavy vaginal bleeding, worsening pain, or infections where the incisions were made--can arise, however, and a patient should head straight to the emergency room if they do.

If an issue is discovered during a laparoscopy, most surgeons will be able to correct it right away, which will put you on the track to better fertility.

Risks of Laparoscopy

Like any surgical procedure, laparoscopy does come with some risks. These can include internal bleeding, infection, damage to internal organs, and poor healing at the incision sites. If any of these seem particularly daunting, it’s best to talk to a doctor about any concerns beforehand so that the risk can be assessed.

Benefits of Laparoscopy

That being said, laparoscopy also offers a number of benefits that just can’t be found in most other surgical procedures. For one, it’s much less invasive than other forms of surgery. By keeping incisions small and letting a tiny camera do most of the work, surgeons can reduce the recovery time substantially.

Laparoscopy also allows for an easy way to correct fertility issues during a single visit. When surgeons spot issues--such as blocked fallopian tubes or adhesions within the uterus--they are able to make a third incision while the patient is still under anesthesia and fix those issues right there. It can lower the risk of infection by allowing for only small scars for healing. And when issues can be fixed right away, fertility improves more quickly as well.

What Laparoscopy Can Tell Us

Most gynecologists will actually recommend the patients try in vitro right away these days, but if they think there might be a reason for the infertility (i.e. if a woman has had no trouble conceiving in the past but very suddenly does), they may ask to do a laparoscopy first.

There are a number of simple, easily fixable factors that can influence fertility. Endometriosis, for example, a condition that causes scar tissue and adhesions to form inside the uterus, is incurable, but easily manageable. It’s especially manageable if it can be caught early on. If a surgeon spots the beginning of scarring or adhesions during a laparoscopy, they can remove those during the procedure, immediately bringing the chances for conception back to the patient’s favor.

In a similar vein, sometimes fallopian tubes are simply blocked. Blockage can be a result of scar tissue and adhesions developed from endometriosis, or, in some cases, infections that either cause the fallopian tissue to swell or clog the tubes. This can also be fixed right away if surgeons go straight into removing scarring and adhesions or working to heal infections.

Sometimes infertility is evident, but the reasoning behind that infertility is not. Unexplained infertility is usually diagnosed when a doctor orders typical reproductive tests that come back with no abnormal results, but a woman is still unable to conceive. If this happens, the most effective and least invasive way to determine whether the cause of infertility is something that can be easily fixed, the laparoscopy is the best route.

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