An ectopic or tubal pregnancy is a complication in which the woman’s egg gets implanted outside the uterus once it is fertilized. Unlike a normal pregnancy, this complication usually occurs in the Fallopian tube or another part of the female reproductive system such as the cervix or abdomen. In spite of advancements in fertility science and pregnancy technology, no definitive medical solution has been found for ectopic pregnancy. In order to safeguard the health of the pregnant woman, doctors are forced to terminate the fetus.
Causes of Ectopic Pregnancy
According to medical research, blockages in the Fallopian tube are mainly responsible for ectopic pregnancies. Once a matured egg gets fertilized by sperm, it seeks to travel through the Fallopian tube into the uterus for implantation to occur. However, complications in the tube such as blockages may result in the egg being unable to reach the womb.. Implantation may therefore occur in the Fallopian tube.
Risk Factors for Ectopic Pregnancy
- Long-term exposure to tobacco and marijuana smoke increases your risk of suffering an ectopic pregnancy.
- Sexually transmitted diseases such as gonorrhea, genital herpes and Chlamydia may cause extensive damage to the pelvic area, resulting in Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.
- Complications from an earlier Fallopian tube surgery
- In Vitro Fertilization
- Surgical treatments for pelvic disorders
Signs and Symptoms
An ectopic pregnancy is usually difficult to detect in its initial stages, mainly due to the fact that the pregnant woman experiences the same signs as perfectly healthy pregnancies including, tender breasts, missed periods and general body weakness.
However, after the initial couple of weeks, any of the signs below should alert you to the possibility of a tubal pregnancy.
- Significant pain in the abdominal and pelvic area. While this pain may start from only one side of your body, the condition could affect the whole region over time.
- Bleeding in the vaginal area. The color of the blood may be brightly colored just like menstrual bleeding.
- Extreme dizziness
- Urinal pain
- Rectal pain especially during bowel movement
- Pain around the shoulder
Ectopic Pregnancy Diagnosis
A basic pregnancy test is insufficient for the detection of this pregnancy complication. While these tests may confirm that you may indeed be pregnant, more conclusive tests are necessary for detecting this condition, including:
- Examination of the pelvis and uterus to look for changes in its size
- Blood pregnancy tests that determine the quantity of HCG hormones. Since the quantity of this hormone increase twice every two days, conducting the test again after every 48 hours will let your doctor know whether your pregnancy is progressing smoothly or not.
- Your gynecologist or obstetrician will be able to detect whether you are suffering from ectopic pregnancy by conducting an ultrasound scan when the pregnancy is about 2 months old.
Treatment for Ectopic Pregnancy
Since ectopic pregnancies can lead to severe rupturing of the Fallopian tube and considerable damage to the health of the pregnant woman, immediate treatment after diagnosis is critical. There are lots of medications that can be used to terminate the abnormal pregnancy, if it is detected in the first couple of weeks after fertilization. Methotrexate is a popular prescription drug used for terminating the growing fetus and one or two shots is usually enough to end its life. This medication is a convenient alternative to surgery but it doesn’t come without its own side effects. After receiving the shot, your doctor will likely schedule follow-up tests to determine whether the pregnancy has been successfully terminated.
An emergency surgery may be scheduled if your pregnancy is a couple of months old, since medication may fail to terminate it. Fallopian tube surgery will likely be conducted by your doctor as it is best form of treatment for tubal pregnancy at the moment.
Moving On after Ectopic Pregnancy
Most women find it hard to cope after losing their pregnancies to this complication and it is important for you to seek counseling and support to get over the loss as quickly as possible. If you feel depressed, seeking help from your psychiatrist can go a long way to help you get your life back.
Once you are ready to try for a baby again, you should seek medical treatment for the underlying condition behind your tubal pregnancy. While suffering this pregnancy complication doesn’t mean you can never be a mother, it may alert you to the possibility that:
- You are currently suffering from a condition that increases your risk of a repeat tubal pregnancy in future.
- Getting again pregnant may not be a walk in the park.
Getting Pregnant Again
Majority of those that suffer ectopic pregnancies go on to get pregnant again without further complications. It is always a great idea to ensure your doctor is aware of your pregnancy history so that the right preventive measures can be taken throughout your pregnancy period.
Keep in mind that waiting at least six months after ectopic pregnancy before trying again for a baby is always recommended by doctors. This gives your reproductive organs such as the Fallopian tubes enough time to heal.