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Ectopic Pregnancy


What is Ectopic Pregnancy ?

An ectopic pregnancy (also called tubal pregnancy) occurs when a fertilized egg implants outside the womb usually in a fallopian tube but rarely can occur in the abdominal cavity or in an ovary. Ectopic pregnancy is an uncommon but a very serious one. The symptoms include abdominal pain, shoulder pain, abdominal cramps, nausea, dizziness, and vaginal bleeding. In this case, a woman needs treatment right away.

Find below some of the common questions women ask about ectopic pregnancy.

What Is Ectopic Pregnancy?

Normal pregnancies occur inside a woman's uterus where as an ectopic pregnancy occurs outside the uterus. A fertilized egg attaches at a wrong place in a woman's body. In most of the ectopic pregnancies, the egg attaches to the woman's fallopian tube. That is the reason; ectopic pregnancies are also called tubal pregnancies. 

Very rarely, ectopic pregnancies also takes place in other parts of a woman's body like on the ovary, cervix, or somewhere else in a woman's abdomen. Ectopic pregnancies are serious complication, which can cause internal bleeding and infection and may lead to death if not treated in time. 

Ectopic pregnancies are not very common, they occur in about 2 out of every 100 pregnancies. However, this is seen more common in the past 30 years. Some experts think the increase may be due to:

  • An increase in sexually transmitted infection, which can scar the fallopian tubes
  • Infertility treatments

Is Ectopic Pregnancy Dangerous?

The answer is yes. Ectopic pregnancy is a life threatening issue. A growing embryo can rupture and burst a fallopian tube, which can lead to internal bleeding and infection. The good news here is that an effective treatment is available.  It is very rare for a woman becoming pregnant after she has had a sterilization or while she is using an IUD. If she becomes pregnant, she is at an increased risk of ectopic or tubal pregnancy.

Who Is at Risk for Ectopic Pregnancy?

Women are at an increased risk for ectopic pregnancy if they
  • Are 30 years old or above.
  • Have had previous ectopic pregnancies.
  • Have had a fertilized egg placed in a fallopian tube during infertility procedure (usually implants in the uterus but in rare cases may implant in the fallopian tube.)
  • Have a history of endometriosis or Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID).
  • Have had abdominal, pelvic, or fallopian tube surgery

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Ectopic Pregnancy?

Ectopic pregnancies also seem like normal pregnancies and a woman may have a missed period, nausea, fatigue, and breast tenderness and the symptoms of ectopic pregnancy may include:
  • Severe abdominal pain only on one side of the body
  • Shoulder pain
  • Abdominal cramps and spotting
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness or fainting spells.
If you experience severe pain or bleeding, go to the emergency room (ER) right away. The sooner an ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed and treated, the better.

How Can I Know If I Have an Ectopic Pregnancy?

Your doctor will diagnose an ectopic pregnancy through a pelvic exam by using an ultrasound. Your doctor may also use blood tests or a laparoscope (a thin instrument inserted into your abdomen)

How Is Ectopic Pregnancy Treated?

  • Ectopic pregnancy is treated through medicine or surgery. Talk with your doctor the treatment options.
  • A medicine methotrexate is used to end an ectopic pregnancy (tubal pregnancy)
  • Surgery also removes the pregnancy. Sometimes it is required to remove the tube with the pregnancy (This is called a salpingectomy). The tube is removed via an opening in the abdomen (This is called an open procedure). This can also be removed by a small incision near the navel using a laparoscope.

If I Had an Ectopic Pregnancy, Can I become Pregnant Again?

This depends on the type of treatment you have had and the condition of your fallopian tubes. If a tube was removed or your tubes are scarred, it can be difficult to get pregnant, but there are many women who are able to have normal pregnancies after having an ectopic pregnancy. From 5 to 8 out of every 10 women are able to, but about 1 out of 10 women who have an ectopic pregnancy will have another one.

There are many treatment options available for a woman to have healthy pregnancies after an ectopic pregnancy. Talk with your doctor about finding various treatments that are best for you.

If you have been struggling to become pregnant, you are not alone and more than 1 out of 10 women experience infertility (the inability to become pregnant). Millions of men and women have dealt with this problem. Though struggling with this problem is common, at times it can be very frustrating.

NOTE: Severe pain only on one side can be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy, which can be life threatening.  Seek medical attention immediately to prevent further damage.

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