Reasons, Symptoms and Treatments for Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy is when your fertilized egg hasn’t implanted in the uterus but instead has implanted in your fallopian tube or another organ in your abdomen. Others call it tubal pregnancy. There are many reasons that can cause this and this condition is considered dangerous for mommy. Let us now look at what is an ectopic pregnancy and how to deal with it.

Reasons for and Problems with an Ectopic Pregnancy

1) Most ectopic pregnancies occur in the fallopian tube

ectopic pregnancy

When the, after it has been fertilized, chooses to implant not in the uterus but somewhere else, this is called an ectopic pregnancy. The fertilized egg could implant itself in the fallopian tube, ovary, under your uterus muscle, vagina, or anywhere in your abdomen. 95% of ectopic pregnancies however implant in the fallopian tube which makes most ectopic pregnancies, fallopian tube pregnancies.

2) Your fertilized egg doesn't move

The fertilized egg depends on the chorionic villi to implant into the uterus. If the chorionic villi is not healthy or there is an infection within the fallopian tube causing it to narrow, then the fertilized egg might not get through and will not implant in the correct place. Also, if the fertilized egg is too big or there is a hormone problem, it may implant in the fallopian tube becoming an ectopic pregnancy.

3) Baby stops growing

Your baby needs to get lots of nutrition from mommy and this comes from your placenta. In the early stages of the fertilized egg’s growth, part of the egg will form the placenta and the other part will develop into the baby. Your entire baby's development can only happen in the womb. In another place such as the fallopian tube, the baby does not have the sufficient necessities and therefore cannot grow.

Recurrence is common and getting pregnant becomes difficult

An ectopic pregnancy means you run a higher risk of repeating this condition and will have trouble getting pregnant again. After your first tubal pregnancy, the chances of your next being the same are 10-15% and in some cases as high as 20% for the egg implanting in the fallopian tube. An ectopic pregnancy is now ten times more likely than a normal pregnancy and 4-5% will be a fallopian tube pregnancy due to the poor conditions within the fallopian tubes. So unfortunately, only about 30-65% of women who have suffered a tubal pregnancy can have a normal pregnancy in the future.

Women at High Risk of an Ectopic Pregnancy

1) Previous ectopic pregnancy

If you have had a tubal pregnancy before and used a non intrusive procedure to rectify the condition, then the chances of having another tubal pregnancy are ten times more than normal.

2) Fallopian tube or pelvis surgery

If you have had a tubal ligation procedure or any surgery on your fallopian tubes or within your pelvis, you are at a higher risk of having a tubal pregnancy.

3) Infections in the pelvis area

Half of all ectopic pregnancies are due to problems with the fallopian tubes. The main reasons are vaginal viruses such as Chlamydia and other S.T.D.'s and pelvis infections such as bacterial pelvic inflammatory disease. These can result in damage to the fallopian tubes and increase the risk of a tubal pregnancy.

4) Artificial fertilization

A normal pregnancy will only have a 2% risk of a tubal pregnancy but artificial fertilization has a 5% risk. Also, those who had a surgical abortion will also have a higher risk.

Symptoms of an Ectopic Pregnancy

The symptoms of a tubal pregnancy are pain, no period, irregular bleeding, dizziness and vomiting. But these can easily be mistaken for the early stages of pregnancy, so if you have these symptoms and are concerned, then you must talk to your doctor to diagnose if you have this problem and then receive the appropriate treatment.

1) Lower tummy pains

In 90-100% of all ectopic pregnancies, woman will feel pain. It’s like a cramp or sharp pain but everyone experiences these pains differently. If you experience pain only on one side of your lower tummy then you need to be concerned. Inflammation within your fallopian tubes will cause you pain and any internal bleeding will cause you pains in your tummy and across your shoulders. At your first ultrasound to check your egg position, if they can't find your egg and you have lower tummy pains, then this is cause for concern. At any time if the pain stops, you must visit your local doctor for a checkup.

2) No period and irregular bleeding

If your period is delayed or you are bleeding when it is not your period time, then you need to be concerned that you may have had a miscarriage, a partial miscarriage or a tubal pregnancy. Even if your pregnancy test is positive but your H.C.G. number is abnormal, you have irregular bleeding, the bleeding is less than a usually period, or you have black or brown colored blood and irregular bleeding, then it could be a tubal pregnancy. If you have any irregularities regarding your period, then you must consult your doctor.

3) Enterocoelia and internal bleeding

This is extremely dangerous and can cause low blood pressure, reduced pulse rate and anemia. If the symptoms continue, then your belly button area will turn to a bluish green color and you will experience serious pelvis pain.

How to Diagnose an Ectopic Pregnancy

If you discover that you have a tubal pregnancy before inflammation in your fallopian tube starts, then a simple laparoscopic surgery procedure can rectify the problem. If however you don't discover this problem quickly, it could cause serious bleeding and be life threatening. So the earlier you can diagnose this problem the better to prevent any pregnancy complications. If you experience any bleeding or lower tummy pains, you must go to see your doctor immediately.

1) H.C.G. checkup

During a normal pregnancy, the placenta will produce H.C.G. and it will double every 48 hours. If this does not regularly go up, then the baby could have health problems or you could be at risk of a miscarriage and it could also be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy. To diagnose this condition, you can test for H.C.G. every 48 hours.

2) Luteohormone checkup

Your luteohormone levels will go up at the early stage of your pregnancy. An indicator that you may have a miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy is low levels of this hormone. This indicator will not however tell you where the egg is or if the egg is viable.

3) Ultrasound

Your ultrasound can help determine if you are pregnant and show if the pregnancy is going well. In some situations, a vagina ultrasound is more accurate than belly ultrasound. The ultrasound can also see if there is any blood in the tummy or amniotic fluid. The ultrasound can also diagnose internal bleeding that might be caused by an ectopic pregnancy. H.C.G. and luteohormone checkups a long with your ultrasound can diagnose a tubal pregnancy without the need for laparoscopy or curettage.

4) Laparoscopy

Laparoscopy is a very common way to diagnose a tubal pregnancy. In the past, you had to diagnose first and then use laparoscopy to treat an ectopic pregnancy, but now they can do the diagnosis and treatment together. A laparoscopy is done under a general anesthesia, it is a tiny instrument that is put into the tummy through the belly button to examine and if confirmed, then the instrument can clear away the egg immediately. After the laparoscopy treatment, there is no need to stay in the hospital.

5) Curettage

After a blood test, a digital checkup and ultrasound, if it is sure that the baby can’t survive then curettage will be used to scrape the egg out. This procedure is not used to diagnose a tubal pregnancy or possible miscarriage. It is only a method of removing the egg if there is no chance of survival. If while conducting the procedure they are unable to remove anything, then they will need to conduct further tests to determine the problem.

How to Treat an Ectopic Pregnancy

You can treat a tubal pregnancy either with medicine or surgery. The most common method is surgery by cutting open the fallopian tubes or removing them. Recently, there have been developments in medicines that can clear the egg from the fallopian tube. These medicines carry fewer risks as they do not damage the fallopian tubes as surgery does, but the medicines are only effective at the early stage of a tubal pregnancy.

1) Cutting open the fallopian tube

This procedure requires the fallopian tube to be cut open and the egg being removed. The fallopian tube is then left to recover and heal naturally. The disadvantage of this procedure is that the recovered tissue in the fallopian tube may require further surgery if it grows and blocks the tube.

2) Cutting out the fallopian tube

This procedure is the removal of the very small part of the fallopian tube that contains the egg and then the tube is reconnected using micro-surgery.

General Knowledge Box: Diagnosing an Ectopic Pregnancy yourself using a Test Strip

The H.C.G. from your blood or urine while you are pregnant should show a single protein structure, but if you have a tubal pregnancy then the H.C.G. structure will be more complex. Recently, research has shown that changes in the H.C.G. composition can be affected by certain diseases and if the pregnant woman's urine has high levels of this type of complex hormone protein, then there is a high risk of a tubig pregnancy.

The self testing strip use the same principle as above to detect if you have a tubal pregnancy but is not 100% accurate so you must still go to a hospital for a checkup.

Though an ectopic pregnancy may occur at any instance, remember to still stay safe during your pregnancy.

Sandra Henderson

Editor-in-chief at Babiology and a proud mother of four passionate about sharing pregnancy and baby growth knowledges

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