Posts Tagged ‘ectopic’

Ectopic pregnancy

Tuesday, September 1st, 2009

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.