Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic Pregnancy

11 Mar 2022 | 4 min Read

Sayani Basu

Author | 342 Articles

From fertilisation to delivery, pregnancy involves several steps. In one of these steps, a fertilised egg travels to the uterus to attach itself. If the fertilised egg doesn’t attach to the uterus and attaches to the fallopian tube, abdominal cavity, or cervix instead, it is called an ectopic pregnancy.

A fertilised egg cannot grow anywhere other than the uterus. Hence, ectopic pregnancy is fatal for the foetus. Immediate treatment is important to save the expecting mum’s life and increase the chances for healthy pregnancies in the future.

According to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), ectopic pregnancies occur in about one out of every 50 pregnancies.

Causes of An Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilised egg grows outside the uterus. In some cases, the following conditions can also cause an ectopic pregnancy:

  • infection or inflammation of the fallopian tubes from a previous medical condition, infection, or surgery
  • birth defects
  • genetic abnormalities
  • hormonal factors
  • medical conditions that affect the condition of the fallopian tubes and reproductive organs

Who Is At Risk for An Ectopic Pregnancy?

Any pregnancy can be at a risk for an ectopic pregnancy. Risk factors for an ectopic pregnancy increase with:

  • maternal age of 35 years and above
  • history of endometriosis
  • history of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • history of pelvic surgery, abdominal surgery, or multiple abortions
  • history of ectopic pregnancy
  • conception aided by fertility drugs or procedures
  • smoking during pregnancy

Symptoms of An Ectopic Pregnancy

Nausea and sore breasts are the common symptoms in both ectopic and normal pregnancies. However, the following symptoms are more common in ectopic pregnancy:

  • Sharp waves of pain in the abdomen, pelvis, or neck
  • Severe pain on one side of the abdomen
  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding
  • Rectal pressure
  • Mild cramping on one side of the pelvis
  • Dizziness or fainting

Diagnosis of An Ectopic Pregnancy

If an expecting woman has an ectopic pregnancy, the doctor might do an ultrasound to see the position of the developing foetus.

Often, the foetus is too small to see on ultrasound until more than 5 or 6 weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period. Hence, if an external ultrasound can’t show the foetus, the doctor might perform the test with a wand-like device in the vagina.

How Is an Ectopic Pregnancy Treated?

Methotrexate injection is used to stop the foetus from growing in case of ectopic pregnancy. Image Source: freepik

As a fertilised egg can’t survive outside the uterus, it is important for the doctors to take it out. If the fallopian tube (where the egg is implanted) bursts, there can be severe internal bleeding. It can also lead to maternal death. Some of the diagnosis options for an ectopic pregnancy are:

  • Medication: Methotrexate, an injection of a powerful medicine, is used to stop the foetus from growing. The doctor would prescribe regular blood tests to ensure that the drug is effective. When effective, it will cause bleeding and cramping.
  • Keyhole surgery: Through this surgery, the fertilised egg is removed. The surgeons would insert a small camera through a small incision so that they see their work. The surgeon then removes the embryo and repairs any damage to the fallopian tube.
Quit smoking before pregnancy to do your part in controlling the risk factors of ectopic pregnancy. | Image Source: pixabay 

There’s no way to prevent an ectopic pregnancy. But you can try to control the risk factors by:

  • Not smoking. If you smoke, you should quit smoking before pregnancy. 
  • Using a condom while having sex to prevent any kind of sexually transmitted diseases or infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhea which can cause PID.

Women who have had an ectopic pregnancy can have healthy and normal pregnancies in the future. So there’s nothing to worry about.

Also Read: Ectopic Pregnancy In Hindi

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