Ectopic pregnancy

crampsIn an ectopic or “out of place” pregnancy, a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube, and begins to grow. When this happens, the birth of a baby is not possible and the woman’s health is threatened.  It can be pretty scary, so familiarize yourself with symptoms.

With an ectopic pregnancy, about 1 week after a missed menstrual period a woman may experience slight, irregular vaginal bleeding that may be brownish in color. Some women mistake this bleeding for a normal menstrual period. The bleeding may be followed by pain in the lower abdomen, often felt mainly on one side.  If you experience this, call your doc right away or go to the emergency room.  Without treatment, these symptoms may be followed in several days or weeks by severe pelvic pain, shoulder pain (due to blood from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy pressing on the diaphragm), faintness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting.

An ectopic pregnancy can be difficult to diagnose, so several tests need to be performed. If the provider finds an ectopic pregnancy, the embryo (which cannot survive) must be removed so that it does not cause the fallopian tube to rupture, resulting in life-threatening internal bleeding. Most ectopic pregnancies are diagnosed in the first 8 weeks of pregnancy, usually before the tube has ruptured.

There are two treatments for ectopic pregnancy: medication (using a drug called methotrexate which stops growth of the pregnancy and saves the fallopian tube. The woman’s body gradually absorbs the pregnancy); and surgery (the provider usually makes a tiny incision in the fallopian tube and removes the embryo, trying to preserve the tube, although sometimes it must be removed). After either of these treatments, the provider monitors the woman for several weeks with blood tests for hCG until levels of the hormone return to zero.

The most significant risk factor for ectopic pregnancy is sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia. For most women, the cause of an ectopic pregnancy is unknown.

Many women who have had an ectopic pregnancy can have healthy pregnancies in the future. Studies suggest that about 50 to 80 percent of women who have had an ectopic pregnancy are able to have a normal pregnancy. Women who have had an ectopic pregnancy have about a 10 percent chance of it happening again, so they need to be monitored carefully when they next attempt to conceive.

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6 Responses to “Ectopic pregnancy”

  1. musculation Says:

    Oh great information you provided here.
    I think both the ways are good.
    But the thing you mentioned that (STIs).
    I really don’t understand it.
    That why and how its a danger?
    And what to do if it happens?
    Tell me i want to know about it.

  2. Lindsay Says:

    Hi – Thanks for your comment and great question. Untreated, chlamydia can spread to the upper genital tract (uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries), resulting in pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), often with a superinfection with other bacteria. PID can damage a woman’s fallopian tubes, possibly preventing an egg from migrating to the uterus and leading to ectopic pregnancy or infertility.

    In a normal pregnancy, untreated chlamydia infection can increase the risk of premature rupture of the membranes (PROM) and premature delivery. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that all pregnant women be screened for chlamydia infection at the first prenatal visit. Testing is done on a urine sample or vaginal fluid obtained with a swab. Chlamydial infection can be cured with antibiotics that prevent complications for mother and baby. Partners of an infected women also should be treated, because the infection can be passed back and forth between sexually active couples.

    Thanks again for stopping by.

  3. solar Says:

    May i know what is the statics of ectopic or “out of place” pregnancy happening in pregnant women? Is there any way that a women who want to conceive can avoid this kind of “pregnancy”?

  4. Lindsay Says:

    Hi Solar – Up to 1 pregnancy in 50 is ectopic or “out of place.” For most women, the cause of ectopic pregnancy is unknown so it’s hard to say how to avoid it. Making sure you have a preconception health checkup is important so that you’re as healthy as possible when you conceive. Research suggests that smoking cigarettes is a risk factor, so quitting smoking might be beneficial. (Not to mention all the other benefits associated with quitting smoking.)

  5. Brandi Becknell Says:

    Hi! I am currently 5-6 weeks pregnant and have had an ectopic pregnancy in the past. Fortunately, my tube did not have to be removed. I have had one normal pregnancy since then and my daughter was perfectly healthy. Does this help my chances of this pregnancy being normal also? I am not experiencing any symptoms of an ectopic. Please easy my worried mind.

  6. Lindsay Says:

    Hi Brandi – I, too, had an ectopic pregnancy once so I can appreciate your concern. It’s great that you had a normal, healthy pregnancy after your ectopic. Most women do, about 50-80% of us. Unfortunately, I can’t give you any figures as to how this might improve/change your odds of another possible ectopic in the future. The best thing to do is to keep in touch with your provider on a regular basis and give him a call if you have any concerns.