What You Need To Know About Ectopic Pregnancy

By in Pregnancy & Labor on 30 October 2010

A tubal pregnancy or an ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg is implanted outside the uterus. It can occur in 1 out of 50 pregnancies and in majority of the cases, the fertilized egg settles in the fallopian tubes — the very reason why it’s also called a tubal pregnancy. Rarely, implantation can also occur in the abdomen, ovary or the cervix.

Normally, the fertilized egg or embryo settles into the uterine lining where there is enough room for pregnancy to develop. But since the pregnancy is ectopic or out of place, pregnancy cannot progress and as the fetus grows, it can rupture the organ where implantation occurred. Since pregnancy is not viable, emergency medical intervention is needed in order to prevent further tube damage and to prevent life-threatening complications such as internal bleeding.

Knowing the Symptoms:

Ectopic pregnancy is usually detected during the 8th week of pregnancy. In some instances, the condition already calls for serious medical intervention because a woman may have difficulty differentiating the signs and symptoms as to that of a normal pregnancy. The first symptom that is usually reported by women is light vaginal bleeding or spotting, which is accompanied by one-sided pelvic pain. The pain is often described as sharp or stabbing and the intensity may vary at intervals. In severe cases such that of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, pelvic pain may be associated with abdominal pain that radiates to the shoulder or neck. Other symptoms to look out for are dizziness, low back pain, hypotension or low blood pressure, nausea and vomiting.

Understanding the Cause:

Ectopic pregnancy is caused by an embryo’s (fertilized egg) inability to settle into the uterus. It is commonly caused by blockage due to an infection or inflammation of the tubes.

Identifying the Risk Factors:

The occurrence of ectopic pregnancy tends to occur more among women aged 35 years old and above. Women with a history of ectopic pregnancy, surgery of the fallopian tubes, pelvic inflammatory disease, and sexually transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea are also at greater risk of having a pregnancy that’s out of place. The use of intrauterine device (IUD) as a method of contraception, and the use of fertility drugs can also put a woman at risk to this condition.

Getting Diagnosed:

One parameter used by doctors in ruling out an ectopic pregnancy is through the use of a Quantitative hCG Test. Human chorionic gonadotropin or hCG is a pregnancy hormone that is produced by the placenta, and is usually detected in the blood and urine as early as 8 to 10 days after conception. During the early weeks of pregnancy, the amount of hCG usually doubles every 2 days. In an ectopic pregnancy, hCG levels are lower than usual, which is why a quantitative hCG test is usually used for monitoring.

A doctor may also order an ultrasound examination in order to visualize the reproductive organs, and to determine whether the implantation occurred in the uterus. However, health care providers do not entirely rely on the ultrasound as a way of diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy because not all tubal pregnancies can be seen through the test. Hence, women are usually asked to return to their doctor’s clinic every 2 or 3 days for hCG monitoring. If hCG levels do not rise as expected, close monitoring is continued until the site of implantation is determined.

Possible Treatment Options:

Treatment of an ectopic pregnancy may vary, and it can largely depend on whether there is an immediate need for surgery. In cases of a ruptured fallopian tube, an emergency surgery is needed in order to stop the bleeding. If the fallopian tube and ovary are damaged, removal may be necessary. But if the condition is detected early and the fallopian tube is still intact, a laparoscopic surgery may be performed to remove the embryo and to repair the damage.  This procedure is less invasive because only a small incision is needed for the repairs to be done.

For a pregnancy that is not very far along, surgery is usually not the first option because a drug called Methotrexate is usually enough to halt the development of pregnancy. But regardless of the treatment option, doctors would still continue to monitor a woman’s hCG levels to ensure that pregnancy was successfully terminated. If hCG levels remain elevated, additional treatment methods may be necessary either through medications or even surgery.

Prognosis:

Getting pregnant after an ectopic pregnancy may be difficult, but it is still very much possible especially when the reproductive organs are still intact. It may not be wise to get pregnant right away after an ectopic pregnancy because your body needs some time to heal. If you want to try again, work closely with your doctor to ensure that you have a carefully planned and guarded pregnancy.

Pregnancy entails that you listen closely to what your body is telling you. If you feel that something is terribly wrong, never hesitate to call your doctor because in a case such as an ectopic pregnancy, early detection can save your life.

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