Ectopic Pregnancyby Ann Butenas
Ectopic, translated as "out of place," occurs when the fertilized ovum implants outside the uterus. This condition is also known as "tubal pregnancy." Although rare, theses can sometimes happen in the ovary, the abdominal cavity, or the cervix.
According to William Sears, M.D., in his book 'The Pregnancy Book', ectopic pregnancies occur due to a blockage in the fallopian tube, either due to a developmental defect or from scar tissue related to a prior infection. These can prevent the normal passage of the fertilized ovum into the uterus. The embryo will then grow in the tube or some other place outside the uterus.
Dr. Sears indicates that contributing risk factors to an ectopic pregnancy can include the following:
A previous ectopic pregnancy. Previous surgery on or near the fallopian tubes, which resulted in scar tissue.A history of pelvic infectionsEndometriosis Exposure to DES (Diethylstilbestrol); daughters of women who took DES during their pregnancy have a greater risk of reproductive system abnormalities. Infections associate with the use of an IUD.
It is imperative that you speak with your doctor if you have any of these risk factors. Early diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy is essential to not only ensure your chances of having a normal pregnancy next time, but to quite possibly save your life. As an embryo grows in the fallopian tube, it pushes through the tube and ruptures blood vessels that could lead to a potentially life-threatening hemorrhage.
Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, explains Dr. Sears, consist of the following:
Pain, generalized in the lower abdominal area or to one side of the lower abdomen near the site of the ectopic pregnancy. If the pain becomes sharp or severe, it may mean that the tubal pregnancy has ruptured and a call should be placed immediately to your doctor.Bleeding, although in itself is not a symptom, but the blood associated with an ectopic pregnancy, if it ruptures, is usually light or heavy, with a bit of brownish staining, or a dark red flow. Bleeding may occur before or after the pain strikes. Nausea, vomiting, or dizziness may occur as the pain increases and becomes more localized. Feelings of faintness and a rapid pulse may be evident, as well. Severe pain during a pelvic examination when the cervix is moved. Tenderness over the tube, which may be mild or severe.
If you suspect you are experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, be sure to alert your doctor immediately so he or she can determine the best course of treatment. Experiencing such a pregnancy is much like experiencing a miscarriage, in that a pregnancy is terminated before its time. Emotionally, expect to feel emotions similar to those associated with having a miscarriage.
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Reference for this article: Sears, William, M.D. and Martha Sears, R.N., 1997. The Pregnancy Book: A Month-by-Month Guide. Boston. Little, Brown and Company..
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