Ectopic Pregnancy Explained by a Denver Fertility Clinic
- Posted on: Sep 28 2014
A fertilized egg needs to attach itself to the uterine lining for normal pregnancy to ensue. Ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilized egg attaches outside the uterus, typically within the Fallopian tubes. Pregnancy resulting from attachment of the fertilized egg to the tube is also known as tubal pregnancy. The other places where an ectopic pregnancy can happen include the abdominal cavity, ovary, or cervix. Almost 20 in every 1,000 pregnancies are ectopic in nature.
The fertilized egg would not be able to sustain itself following an ectopic pregnancy. If this condition is not treated promptly, maternal organ damage and life-threatening blood loss can happen. Early detection of an ectopic pregnancy is essential to prevent the loss of reproductive potential in woman.
It is hard to distinguish the early signs of ectopic pregnancy from a normal pregnancy. Abdominal and pelvic pain and vaginal spotting may be experienced with ectopic pregnancy. Shoulder pain or bowel discomfort may result from bleeding in the Fallopian tube. Ectopic pregnancy in the cervix may lead to heavy vaginal bleeding. Immediate medical help has to be sought if any of the following symptoms arise: severe abdominal pain, heavy bleeding, light-headedness, fainting or shock.
A pelvic examination along with a vaginal ultrasound can help detect the presence of an ectopic pregnancy. Moreover, if a pregnant woman’s choriogonadotropin hormone (HCG) levels in the blood do not increase significantly with pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy may be suspected.
The exact cause of ectopic pregnancy is hard to decipher. Here is a list of possible contributing factors.
- Fallopian tube defects: Most ectopic pregnancies occur in the tubes. The presence of abnormalities, such as tubal inflammation, infection, scarring, or deformities, can block the smooth passage of fertilized egg, leading to ectopic pregnancy. Reconstruction surgeries done on Fallopian tubes may also be a contributing factor.
- Abnormalities in the uterus and ovaries: Infections in the uterus or ovaries, such as those caused by gonorrhea or chlamydia, can increase the chances of having an ectopic pregnancy. Endometriosis, or the abnormal growth of the uterine lining, is also a contributing factor.
- Previous History: Women who have experienced ectopic pregnancy before, are at a higher risk for the same.
- Infertility: A few studies have associated ectopic pregnancy with fertility problems as well as the use of fertility medications.
- Contraception methods, such as the placement of an intrauterine device (IUD) or tubal ligation, prevent the occurrence of pregnancy. However, in very rare cases wherein pregnancy does ensue, it is likely to be ectopic in nature.
Other possible causes of an ectopic pregnancy are maternal hormone imbalances and abnormal embryonic development.
The developing fetus must be removed in ectopic pregnancy cases in order to save the mother’s life. If the tube has not ruptured, an ectopic pregnancy is treated with surgery and medications to terminate the pregnancy. However, if ectopic pregnancy is accompanied by ruptured tube, blood transfusion and surgery to remove the pregnancy and the Fallopian tube may be necessary.
Women who have had an ectopic pregnancy may become pregnant again; however, the chances of an ectopic pregnancy are high in this population. An ectopic pregnancy may be prevented from occurring again if the exact medical cause is known and the maternal age is not prohibitive.
Posted in: Infertility Treatment