Overview Of Ectopic Pregnancy
An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs outside the womb (uterus). It may be fatal to the mother.
Commonly Associated With
Tubal pregnancy; Cervical pregnancy; Tubal ligation – ectopic pregnancy
Causes Of Ectopic Pregnancy
In most pregnancies, the fertilized egg travels through the fallopian tube to the womb (uterus). If the movement of the egg is blocked or slowed through the tubes, it can lead to an ectopic pregnancy.
Things that may cause this problem include:
- Birth defect in the fallopian tubes
- Scarring after a ruptured appendix
- Having had an ectopic pregnancy in the past
- Scarring from past infections or surgery of the female organs
The following also increase the risk for this pregnancy complication:
- Age over 35
- Getting pregnant while having an intrauterine device (IUD)
- Having your tubes tied
- Having had surgery to untie tubes to become pregnant
- Having had many sexual partners
- Sexually transmitted infections (STI)
- Some infertility treatments
- Sometimes, the cause is not known. Hormones may play a role.
The most common site for an ectopic pregnancy is the fallopian tube. In rare cases, this can occur in the ovary, abdomen, or cervix.
This type of pregnancy can occur even if you use birth control.
Symptoms Of Ectopic Pregnancy
Symptoms of this type of pregnancy may include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Mild cramping on one side of the pelvis
- No periods
- Pain in the lower belly or pelvic area
If the area around the abnormal pregnancy ruptures and bleeds, symptoms may get worse. They may include:
- Fainting or feeling faint
- Intense pressure in the rectum
- Low blood pressure
- Pain in the shoulder area
- Severe, sharp, and sudden pain in the lower abdomen
Exams & Tests
The health care provider will do a pelvic exam. The exam may show tenderness in the pelvic area.
A pregnancy test and vaginal ultrasound will be done.
Human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) is a hormone that is produced during pregnancy. Checking the blood level of this hormone can detect pregnancy.
When hCG levels are above a certain value, a pregnancy sac in the uterus should be seen with ultrasound.
If the sac is not seen, this may indicate that an ectopic pregnancy is present.
Treatment Of Ectopic Pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancy is life-threatening. The pregnancy cannot continue to birth (term). The developing cells must be removed to save the mother’s life.
If the pregnancy has not ruptured, treatment may include:
- Medicine that ends the pregnancy, along with close monitoring by your doctor.
You will need emergency medical help if the area of the ectopic pregnancy breaks open (ruptures). Rupture can lead to bleeding and shock.
Treatment for shock may include:
- Blood transfusion
- Fluids given through a vein
- Keeping warm
- Raising the legs
- If there is a rupture, surgery is done to stop blood loss and remove the pregnancy. In some cases, the doctor may have to remove the fallopian tube.