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ectopic pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy

What is Ectopic pregnancy?

Pregnancy which occurs outside the uterus is known as Ectopic Pregnancy. It is a life threatening condition.

What are the causes of Ectopic Pregnancy?

Normally, the fertilized egg travels through the fallopian tube to the uterus. Sometimes the movement of the egg is disturbed due to different reasons which lead to ectopic pregnancy. Various conditions that can lead to an ectopic pregnancy are:

  • Defects in the fallopian tubes (Birth Defects)
  • Endometriosis
  • Presence of scars in the uterus from past infections
  • Scarring of the uterus due to surgery

What are the risk factors?

There are many known and unknown risk factors. Most common ones are:

  • Age over 35
  • History of ectopic pregnancy in the past
  • Failure of contraception
  • Tubal ligation (having your fallopian tubes tied)
  • Surgery to untie tubes to again become pregnant
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STI)
  • Some infertility treatments

The most common site for an ectopic is the fallopian tube. In some cases, this can occur in the ovary, abdomen, or cervix also.

What are the symptoms?

Mild symptoms may include:

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Missed periods
  • Cramps and pain in the lower belly or pelvic region

Symptoms may get worse if there is a rupture at the site of ectopic. They may include:

  • Severe and sharp pain in the lower belly which is sudden in onset
  • Fainting
  • Feeling intense pressure in the rectal region
  • Low blood pressure
  • Pain in the shoulder area

Which tests are done?

Your doctor will do physical examination of pelvis. There will be presence of tenderness during examination. Your doctor will do some tests.

  • hCG Test (to check pregnancy)
  • Ultrasound (to see the sac)
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What treatment options are available?

Since it is a life threatening condition, it becomes necessary to remove the tissue from womb to save mother’s life.

Treatment may include medicines that end the pregnancy. Medicine therapy is not useful in ruptured ectopic. In that situation surgery becomes necessary. Surgery is done to stop the blood loss and remove the pregnancy. Your surgeon may have to remove the fallopian tubes to save your life.

Emergency medical help becomes mandatory if the area of the ectopic pregnancy breaks open (ruptures). Ruptured ectopic can lead to bleeding and shock. Treatment for shock may include:

  • Blood transfusion
  • IV Fluids
  • Keeping warm
  • Oxygen therapy

Can you become pregnant again after Ectopic Pregnancy?

It depends on many factors like the age of the woman, the underlying cause of ectopic pregnancy and whether she already has children or not. Women with a history of ectopic pregnancy have higher chances of developing it again. One out of three women with a history of ectopic pregnancy can have a baby in the future. Some women do not get pregnant again.

How to prevent it?

Most forms are not preventable. However, it is possible to reduce some risk factors that can scar the fallopian tubes. These include:

  • Practising safer sex which can prevent you from getting an infection
  • Getting early treatment when diagnosed with STIs
  • Quit smoking

Alternative Names

Tubal pregnancy; Cervical pregnancy; ovarian pregnancy; abdominal pregnancy

References