What is Ectopic Pregnancy?
Pregnancy begins when a fertilised egg makes its way to the uterus and attaches itself there. In case of ectopic pregnancy the fertilised egg may attach and mature itself in the abdominal cavity, fallopian tube or cervix instead of the uterus.
A pregnancy test will still be positive in case of ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy is also called Tubal pregnancy.
Ectopic pregnancy can be a life-threatening situation if not diagnosed and treated immediately.
What are the causes of Ectopic Pregnancy?
The causes of an ectopic pregnancy are still vague but following conditions are directly linked with ectopic pregnancy in some cases:
- inflammation of fallopian tubes due to an infection or surgery in the past
- medical conditions that have a direct impact on your reproductive organs and fallopian tubes
- birth defects or genetic abnormalities
- hormonal issues
Who is most at risk for an ectopic pregnancy?
Risk factors that increase the chances of all sexually active woman for an ectopic pregnancy are:
- history of endometriosis, abdominal surgery, multiple abortions, ectopic pregnancy, STDs like chlamydia or gonorrhoea or pelvic inflammatory diseases
- maternal age over 35 years
- structural abnormalities in the fallopian tube that prevent the egg from travelling to uterus
- pregnancy that is a result of fertility drugs and procedures
- pregnancy occurred despite intrauterine device and tubal ligation
What are the symptoms of Ectopic Pregnancy?
Ectopic pregnancy is very rarely symptomatic, in most cases it is only detected during routine scans. Whereas some women who are diagnosed with ectopic pregnancy complain about having following symptoms:
- pain in lower abdomen
- brown discharge or bleeding from the vagina
- nausea and other signs of pregnancy
- rectal pressure
- dizziness or faint spells
These symptoms can sometimes signify other health related issues too, so make sure that you get instant medical help from a gynaecologist to rule out the causes of your symptoms.
How can Ectopic pregnancy be diagnosed?
If you have all the above-mentioned symptoms visit your doctor immediately. Ectopic pregnancies can’t be diagnosed with a physical exam, it is only possible to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy with a transvaginal ultrasound. What happens during this ultrasound is that a special wand like tool is inserted in your vagina to see where your gestational sac is planted.
Some blood tests may also be required like HCG and progesterone to determine your hormone levels. If the level of these hormones stays the same or starts decreasing over the course of a few days and gestational sac can also be not seen in the ultrasound then your pregnancy will be considered ectopic.
In some cases if the patient has severe symptoms then all of the above diagnostic steps may be left behind to prevent the fallopian tubes from rupturing. A surgery is performed in such a case immediately to treat ectopic pregnancy.
Can ectopic pregnancy be prevented?
Ectopic pregnancy cannot be prevented completely, however you can lower your risk by maintaining good reproductive health. You can do so by limiting your number of sexual partners, which inturn helps in reducing your chances of STDs and PID.
You can also reduce your chances of an ectopic pregnancy by quitting smoking.
How can Ectopic Pregnancy be treated?
Ectopic pregnancy can be deadly for the mother so it is necessary to remove the embryo as soon as the situation is diagnosed. Various treatment options are available depending on the location of the ectopic pregnancy and its stage. Some of these treatment options are:
Surgery: A surgery performed to remove the embryo is called a laparotomy. For this surgery an incision is made and a small camera is inserted through that incision so that the surgeon can see their work. Then they remove the embryo and fix any damage that has happened to fallopian tubes.
In some cases the first attempt at laparotomy may not be successful so a repeat attempt is required, but this time with a larger incision.
After care tips:
Following are some tips that will help you heal and recover quickly after a laparotomy:
- keep the incision clean and dry so there are no chances of an infection
- drink plenty of fluids
- don’t lift heavy objects
- give your pelvic floor rest, which means refrain from tampon use and sexual activities
- rest as much as possible for at least 1 week after the surgery
Medication: If your doctor suspects that there may not be any immediate complications then they will prescribe you with medication which will prevent the ectopic mass from bursting. This medication will be given to you in the form of an injection. What this drug does is that it stops the growth of the cells of ectopic mass and causes symptoms of a miscarriage. Later on blood tests and scans will be repeated to make sure that the drug has worked and surgery is not required to remove the embryo.
FAQs about Ectopic Pregnancy:
Can a fetus survive during an Ectopic Pregnancy? Currently there is no way to transplant a wrongly implanted embryo from fallopian tubes into the uterus so a fetus doesn’t survive in an ectopic pregnancy.
Can Ectopic Pregnancy be life threatening? Ectopic pregnancy may result in the rupture of fallopian tubes which can cause internal bleeding that can be deadly.
Bottom Line: Almost all women who go through ectopic pregnancy have healthy pregnancies and babies in the future. So make sure that you talk to your doctor about ways that can help you ensure a healthy pregnancy in the future.