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What is Ectopic Pregnancy? Ectopic pregnancy occurs outside the womb & can be fatal to the mother. Learn more about signs of ectopic pregnancy & treatment at Indira IVF!

What is Ectopic Pregnancy?

It is the condition when a fertilized egg does not implant in the uterus. The egg is meant to travel down the fallopian tubes and imbed itself into the wall of your uterus, where it can begin to develop. In an ectopic pregnancy, the egg implants in one of the structures along the way. It may get implanted in structures like the fallopian tube (most common) or in other cases, to the ovary, abdominal cavity, or lower part of the uterus. These sites cannot hold a growing embryo or stretch like a uterus. This leads to bleeding in the pregnant woman and if not treated can cause rupture which is a life-threatening condition.

Ectopic pregnancy is a serious condition

An ectopic pregnancy is a medical emergency. The uterus is uniquely suited to hold a growing fetus. It’s an organ that can stretch and expand as the fetus grows. Your fallopian tubes aren’t as flexible. They can burst as the fertilized egg develops. When this happens, you can experience large amounts of internal bleeding. This is life-threatening. An ectopic pregnancy needs to be treated right away to avoid injury to the fallopian tube, other organs in the abdominal cavity, internal bleeding, and death.

Symptoms of ectopic pregnancy

The early ectopic pregnancy symptoms can be very similar to typical pregnancy symptoms. Like a missed period, tenderness in the breast and nausea. The pregnancy test also comes positive. But as the embryo starts to grow in a small place, signs of ectopic pregnancy become more visible.

The earliest signs of an ectopic pregnancy are light vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain. The woman may also feel shoulder pain or an urge to have a bowel movement. The pain depends on where the embryo is implanted and when it leads to bleeding internally.
As the embryo grows, even more, the fallopian tube or other parts may rupture. This causes heavy bleeding and may lead to lightheadedness, fainting and shock. Shoulder pain and rectal pressure are also symptoms of ectopic pregnancy. In case you experience any of the above, you must consult your doctor immediately.

When a tube bursts, you may feel sharp lower abdominal pain. This is a medical emergency, and you will need to contact your healthcare provider or go to the emergency room immediately.

If you realize that you are pregnant and have an IUD (intrauterine device for contraception) in place or have a history of a tubal ligation (having your tubes tied by surgery or /at the time of a C-section), contact your healthcare provider right away. Ectopic pregnancy is more common in these situations.

How is an ectopic pregnancy diagnosed?

Your doctor will perform several tests first to confirm a pregnancy, and then look for the ectopic pregnancy. These tests include:

  • A urine test: This test involves either urinating on a test strip (typically shaped like a stick) or urinating into a cup in your provider’s office and then having a test strip dipped into the urine sample.
  • A blood test: You doctor may test your blood to see how much of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) you have in your body. This hormone is produced during pregnancy. You may also have this called your serum beta-hCG level.
  • An ultrasound exam: An imaging test, an ultrasound uses sound waves to create a picture of your body’s internal structures. Ultrasound is often used during pregnancy. Your provider will use this test to see where the fertilized egg has implanted.

Once your provider has confirmed the pregnancy and determined where the fertilized egg has implanted, a treatment plan will be created. Ectopic pregnancy is an emergency and treatment for this condition is very important.

If your fallopian tube ruptures, you will need to go to the emergency room and be treated immediately. In those cases, there’s no time to wait for an appointment.

Ectopic Pregnancy Treatment

Since the fertilized egg cannot develop normally, it needs to be removed as soon as possible. The doctor on the basis of symptoms and the growth of fetus decides what can be best to do to remove it. It can be done through a medicine, laparoscopic surgery, or abdominal surgery.

If the doctor notices this in an early stage, they can give an injection to stop cell growth and dissolve the existing cells. This is followed by an HCG test to determine if you need more medication.

In case, the embryo has grown, and your doctor feels that a laparoscopic procedure is the best ectopic pregnancy treatment, then you must trust your doctor.

In case the ectopic pregnancy is causing heavy bleeding, your doctor may advise an emergency surgery. Doctors try their best to save the fallopian tube, however, a ruptured tube must be removed.

Home care after ectopic pregnancy treatment

Your doctor will give you specific instructions regarding the care of your incisions after surgery. The chief goals are to keep your incisions clean and dry while they heal. Check them daily for infection signs, which could include:

  • bleeding that won’t stop
  • excessive bleeding
  • foul-smelling drainage from the site
  • hot to the touch
  • redness
  • swelling

You can expect some light vaginal bleeding and small blood clots after surgery. This can occur up to six weeks after your procedure. Other self-care measures you can take include:

  • don’t lift anything very heavy
  • drink plenty of fluids to prevent constipation
  • pelvic rest, which means refraining from sexual intercourse, tampon use, and douching
  • rest as much as possible the first week post-surgery, and then increase activity in the next weeks as tolerated

Always notify your doctor if your pain increases or you feel something is out of the ordinary.

Risk factors of ectopic pregnancy

There are several risk factors that could increase your chance of developing an ectopic pregnancy. A risk factor is a trait or behavior that increases your chance for developing a disease or condition. You may be at a higher risk of developing an ectopic pregnancy if you’ve had:

  • A previous ectopic pregnancy.
  • A history of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection that can cause scar tissue to form in your fallopian tubes, uterus, ovaries, and cervix.
  • Surgery on your fallopian tubes (including tubal ligation, also referred to as having your tubes tied) or on the other organs of your pelvic area.
  • A history of infertility.
  • Treatment for infertility with in vitro fertilization (IVF).
  • Endometriosis
  • Sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
  • An intrauterine device (IUD), a form of birth control, in place at the time of conception.
  • A history of smoking.

Your risk can also increase as you get older. Women over age 35 are more at increased risk than younger women.

It has also been noticed that many women who experience an ectopic pregnancy don’t have any of the above risk factors.

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