An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg fails to migrate to the uterus, therefore, does not attach to the uterus
Fertilization usually takes place in the fallopian tubes, when sperm adhere to an ovum. The fertilized ovum subsequently travels to the uterus, where it is implanted and grows into a fetus, which remains in the uterus until birth.
An ectopic pregnancy occurs in about 1 in every 50 pregnant women according to the American Academy of Family Physicians. 95% occurs in the fallopian tubes, while the other 5% occurs in the ovary, cervix, or abdominal cavity.
These factors increase the chances of one having ectopic pregnancy:
- Pelvic inflammatory diseases
- Previous surgeries
- Previous ectopic pregnancy
- Intra-uterine copper device
- Progesterone only pills
- In-vitro fertilization
Signs and Symptoms
- Vaginal bleeding
- Amenorrhoea (6-8weeks)
- Lower abdominal pain, usually on one side
- Normal-sized uterus
- Pain in your shoulder
- Cervical excitation
If you know you’re pregnant and are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should call your doctor or get treatment right once.
A doctor’s interview and examination is the initial step in diagnosing ectopic pregnancy. A blood test may be used by your doctor to determine your hCG and progesterone levels. These are hormones produced by the body during pregnancy. If these hormone levels start to drop or stay the same over a few days and ultrasound doesn’t reveal a gestational sac, the pregnancy is most likely ectopic.
Medical or surgical treatment may be used depending on your symptoms and when the ectopic pregnancy is found.
Ectopic pregnancy in the early stage can be treated with medications, such as methotrexate. This drug helps to stop the growth of actively dividing cells. Side effects of methotrexate include nausea, vomiting, headache, and drowsiness.
This involves a laparoscopic procedure, which helps to remove the ectopic pregnancy with or without the tube.
In an emergency situation, when the patient presents with profuse bleeding or ruptured ectopic pregnancy, a laparotomy can be done. After treatment, many women will be able to get pregnant and give birth in the future, whether naturally or through assisted reproductive technology like IVF.