Ectopic pregnancy is a complication of pregnancy in which the embryo attaches outside the uterus. Pregnancy begins with a fertilized egg. Normally, the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants and grows outside the main cavity of the uterus.
Oftentimes ectopic pregnancy occurs in a fallopian tube, which carries eggs from the ovaries to the uterus. This type of ectopic pregnancy is called a tubal pregnancy.
Sometimes, an ectopic pregnancy occurs in other areas of the body, such as the ovary, abdominal cavity or the lower part of the uterus (cervix), which connects to the vagina.
Symptoms of an Ectopic Pregnancy
Symptoms usually start when a woman is about 6 weeks pregnant and can include:
- Pain low down and on one side of the abdomen
- Bleeding from vagina
- Pain in the tip of the shoulder
- Discomfort when going to the toilet
- A brown watery discharge from the vagina
They might also have:
- Other more general symptoms such as pale skin and sweating
- Missed a period
- Some of the early signs of being pregnant, such as feeling tired or having sore breasts
If the fertilized egg continues to grow in the fallopian tube, it can cause the tube to rupture. Heavy bleeding inside the abdomen is likely. Symptoms of this life-threatening event include extreme lightheadedness, fainting and shock.
A tubal pregnancy — the most common type of ectopic pregnancy — happens when a fertilized egg gets stuck on its way to the uterus, often because the fallopian tube is damaged by inflammation or is misshapen. Hormonal imbalances or abnormal development of the fertilized egg also might play a role.
Some things that make a woman more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy are;
- Previous ectopic pregnancy
- Inflammation or infection
- Fertility treatment
- Tubal surgery
- Choice of birth control
- Have scarring from pelvic surgery
- Have a ssexually transmitted infection
Ectopic Pregnancy Diagnosis
The doctor will probably do tests that include a pregnancy test and a pelvic exam. They might give an ultrasound to look at the uterus and fallopian tube.
Ectopic Pregnancy Treatment
A fertilized egg cannot survive outside a uterus, the doctor will need to take it out so there won’t be any serious health problems for the woman.
There three main treatments for an ectopic pregnancy:
- Expectant Management – careful monitoring and 1 of the treatments below is used if the fertilised egg doesn’t dissolve by itself
- Medication – an injection of a powerful medicine called methotrexate is used to stop the pregnancy growing
- Surgery – keyhole (laparoscopy) is performed under general anaesthetic to remove the fertilised egg, usually along with the affected fallopian tube
Some treatments may reduce your chances of being able to conceive naturally in the future, although most women will still be able to get pregnant. Talk to your doctor about this.
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