Despite the several rounds of IVF cycles, a procedure commonly recommended if the woman has blocked fallopian tubes, ivf treatment may not be successful. But if it hadnt been for the blocked fallopian tubes, doctors would have missed the actual cause for her infertility ― Tuberculosis.

With nearly 2.2 million cases in India, tuberculosis is the biggest health burden seen in India. Female genital tuberculosis accounts for nearly 10% of all TB cases and 5% of all pelvic infections in the country. People always think Tuberculosis―  a highly contagious disease caused by Mycobacterium tuberculosis only affects the lungs. They miss out that it can target any part of the body, often without any symptoms. The bacilli are often silent when they enter the body, but get ‘activated’ when one’s immunity levels fall and spread throughout the body via the bloodstream and may get lodged even in the genitals. This then leads to infertility if not detected in time and treated aggressively.

Because of the disease’s ‘silent’ and gradual nature, the diagnosis cannot be made in the initial stages. It is often another complaint like infertility that reveals the true cause of the problem making a long lasting impact on the fertility status of the individual. The chances increase greatly if the person has low immunity, HIV or is malnourished.

What are the symptoms of infection with TB?

TB symptoms in males include epididymo-orchitis, a condition where the tubes carrying sperms to the penid gets blocked, making him azoospermic (lack of sperms) and therefore, infertile. In women, genital TB leads to infection of the fallopian tubes, infection of the uterus causing irregular periods, vaginal discharge which be bloody or offensive in odour, pain after sex or may show no symptoms at all.

A person may contract the illness while when having intercourse with a person infected with genital tuberculosis.

What are the chances of pregnancy post TB infection?

The chances of getting pregnant depend on the treatment regime a patient has followed. A treatment plan that is followed meticulously may improve the chances of a successful pregnancy, the guarantee is on a case by case basis. Complete course of treatment must be taken for a period from six to nine months upto even 18 months depending on the intensity and other health parameters. Earlier the diagnosis and treatment, better the chances of conception.

Awareness for early screening must be emphasized with all family members undergoing TB diagnostic tests like Tuberculin test or Chest X rays.

The Indian government has schemes like DOTS (Directly Observed Therapy under Supervision) programme to distribute free medicines to TB patients and creating awareness through media to bring more attention to this fatal disease.

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Visit Physician,PGP-Diabetology, MBBS, MD medicine, 14+ years experience

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