Posts Tagged ‘ectopic pregnancy’

What is an ectopic pregnancy?

Friday, June 3rd, 2016

2013d030_3168An ectopic pregnancy occurs when an embryo grows in the wrong place. Ectopic means “out of place.” Approximately 1 in 50 pregnancies in the US is ectopic.

Usually, a woman’s ovaries release an egg every month, about 14 days before the first day of her period. This is called ovulation. When a couple has sexual intercourse and does not use birth control around the time of ovulation, a man’s sperm swim to meet the woman’s egg. When a sperm penetrates the egg, it’s called fertilization or conception. The fertilized egg then travels to the woman’s uterus, where it burrows into the lining of the uterus and begins to grow.

If the fertilized egg implants somewhere else other than the uterine lining, it is an ectopic pregnancy. In most ectopic pregnancies, the fertilized egg attaches to the fallopian tube. However, it can also attach to an ovary, the cervix, or somewhere in the abdominal cavity.

Unfortunately, any place outside of the uterus doesn’t have the right environment for a baby to develop. There is not enough room and if the fertilized egg continues to grow, it can cause excessive bleeding. This bleeding can be life threatening for the pregnant woman.

Risk factors

Any woman can have an ectopic pregnancy, but there are a few risk factors that increase your chances. These include:

  • A prior ectopic pregnancy
  • Smoking
  • STDs
  • Damage to a fallopian tube
  • Pelvic infections or inflammation
  • Pregnancy when using an intrauterine device (IUD) or after having a tubal ligation
  • Fertility treatments

Signs and symptoms

You will not know right away that you have an ectopic pregnancy. You may have the typical signs of pregnancy, like a missed period and nausea. Or you may have no signs of pregnancy. If you take a home pregnancy test, you will get a positive result.

But as the embryo gets bigger, you may have signs that are unusual and not typical of early pregnancy. These include:

  • Pain in the pelvic area. The pain may be mainly on one side. It can start out mild and then become sharp and stabbing.
  • Lower back pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Bleeding from the vagina
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Low blood pressure

Treatment

There are two types of treatment for an ectopic pregnancy: medicine (methotrexate) or surgery. Your provider will decide which one is best. After treatment, your provider regularly checks your hCG levels until they return to zero. This can take a few weeks. If your levels stay high, it may mean that you still have ectopic tissue in your body. If this happens, you may need additional treatment.

If you have had an ectopic pregnancy, it is important to take time to grieve for your loss. You can have a healthy pregnancy following an ectopic pregnancy but ask your provider when it is OK for you to try to conceive again.

Have questions? Email us at AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Bleeding during pregnancy – what does it mean?

Monday, July 6th, 2015

bleeding during pregnancyIf you are pregnant and experience spotting or bleeding, it can be very scary. When you see blood, your first thought may be “is my baby ok?” Bleeding and spotting from the vagina during pregnancy is common. Up to half of all pregnant women have some bleeding or spotting.

Bleeding? Spotting? What’s the difference?

Spotting is light bleeding and happens when you have a few drops of blood in your underwear. Bleeding is a heavier flow of blood, enough that you need a panty liner or pad to keep the blood from soaking your underwear or clothes.

Bleeding in early pregnancy

Bleeding doesn’t always mean there’s a problem, but it can be a sign of serious complications. There are several things that may cause bleeding early in your pregnancy, such as having sex, an infection, or changes in your cervix and hormones. You may bleed a little when the embryo attaches to the lining of your uterus (called implantation bleeding). This may occur 10-14 days after fertilization. Although this spotting is usually earlier and lighter than a menstrual period, some women don’t notice the difference, and don’t even realize they’re pregnant.

Sometimes bleeding and spotting in the first trimester can be a sign of a serious problem such as miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, or molar pregnancy. But keep in mind that bleeding doesn’t always mean miscarriage. At least half of women who have spotting or light bleeding early in pregnancy don’t miscarry.

Bleeding in late pregnancy

Causes of late pregnancy bleeding include labor, sex, an internal exam by your provider or problems with your cervix, such as an infection or cervical insufficiency. It could also be a sign of preterm labor, placenta previa, placental abruption or uterine rupture.

How to tell if the bleeding is dangerous

Bleeding or spotting can happen anytime, from the time you get pregnant to right before you give birth. Bleeding can be a sign of a serious complication, so it’s important you call your prenatal care provider if you have any bleeding or spotting, even if it stops. If the bleeding is not serious, it’s still important that your provider finds out the cause. Do not use a tampon, douche or have sex if you’re bleeding.

Before you call your provider, write down these things:

• How heavy your bleeding is. Is it getting heavier or lighter and how many pads are you using?
• The color of the blood. It can be different colors, like brown, dark or bright red.

Go to the emergency room if you have:

• Heavy bleeding
• Bleeding with pain or cramping
• Dizziness and bleeding
• Pain in your belly or pelvis

Treatment for your bleeding depends on the cause. You may need a medical exam or tests performed by your provider.

Bottom Line

If you are bleeding or spotting at any point in your pregnancy, call your provider right away and describe what you are experiencing. It’s important that your bleeding or spotting is evaluated to determine if it is dangerous to you and your baby.

Have questions? Send them to AskUs@marchofdimes.org.

Smoking causes serious birth defects

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011
smoking4To dispel any uncertainty about the serious harm caused by smoking to babies and pregnant women, the first-ever comprehensive systematic review of all studies over the past 50 years has established clearly that maternal smoking causes a range of serious birth defects including heart defects, missing/deformed limbs, clubfoot, gastrointestinal disorders, and facial disorders (for example, of the eyes and cleft lip/palate).
 
Smoking during pregnancy is also a risk factor for premature birth, says Dr. Michael Katz, senior Vice President for Research and Global Programs of the March of Dimes. He says the March of Dimes urges all women planning a pregnancy or who are pregnant to quit smoking now to reduce their chance of having a baby born prematurely or with a serious birth defect. Babies who survive being born prematurely and at low birthweight are at risk of other serious health problems, Dr. Katz notes, including lifelong disabilities such as cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities and learning problems. Smoking also can make it harder to get pregnant, and increases the risk of stillbirth.

Around the world, about 250 million women use tobacco every day and this number is increasing rapidly, according to data presented at the 2009 14th World Conference on Tobacco or Health in Mumbai.

The new study, “Maternal smoking in pregnancy and birth defects: a systematic review based on 173,687 malformed cases and 11.7 million controls,” by a team led by Allan Hackshaw, Cancer Research UK & UCL Cancer Trials Centre, University College London, was published online today in Human Reproduction Update from the European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology.

When women smoke during pregnancy, the unborn baby is exposed to dangerous chemicals like nicotine, carbon monoxide and tar, Dr. Katz says. These chemicals can deprive the baby of oxygen needed for healthy growth and development.

During pregnancy, smoking can cause problems for a woman’s own health, including: ectopic pregnancyvaginal bleeding; placental abruption, in which the placenta peels away, partially or almost completely, from the uterine wall before delivery; placenta previa, a low-lying placenta that covers part or all of the opening of the uterus. 

Smoking is also known to cause cancer, heart disease, stroke, gum disease and eye diseases that can lead to blindness.

Pregnancy after a loss

Tuesday, May 4th, 2010

flowerLosing a baby is something no parent should have to face but, sadly, it does happen to some people. After a baby dies, some parents want to try to get pregnant again as soon as possible, while others want to wait.  Some are afraid to try again because they are worried about losing another baby.  Some are very angry.  I think most couples go back and forth between wanting and not wanting to get pregnant again.

If this has happened to you, ask yourself how you feel about getting pregnant again.  Talk to your partner about your feelings and ask him how he feels.  He may feel differently, so share your concerns and make a plan that supports both of you.

Ask your provider when it’s OK for you to start trying for another pregnancy. Some women are told to wait at least 18 months before getting pregnant again.  This gives your body enough time to heal and your emotions time to settle.  But not all women can wait that long because of their age or other factors.  So, talk with your provider about your medical history and make a plan that’s best for you.  Be sure to get a preconception checkup with your provider, too, to make sure you’re as healthy as possible.  You’ll want to be taking a good multivitamin with at least 400 mcg of folic acid each day.

The March of Dimes has created bereavement materials available at no charge for parents or other family members who have experienced the loss of a baby between conception and the first month of life.  These include different fact sheets, three booklets (From Hurt to Healing; What Can You Do?, and When You Want to Try Again), and a list of grief resources.  They are available in English and Spanish.  You can read about some of these materials and order a free kit on our website.