Ectopic Pregnancyby Katlyn Joy
Ectopic pregnancy or tubal pregnancies can be life threatening to the mother and result in miscarriage. The rate of ectopic pregnancy has risen, with only 4.5 cases per 1,000 pregnancies in 1970 compared to between 1 in 40 to 1 in 100 pregnancies today.
It's important for every woman to know the signs of an ectopic pregnancy because of the possibility of serious complications if medical care is not sought quickly enough.
What Are the Warning Signs of an Ectopic Pregnancy
Anytime you have sudden serious pain while pregnant, you should at minimum put in a call to your nurse. If you have bright red bleeding and pain, go directly to the ER.
Other signs include:
- Pregnancy test results will be positive even though this is not a normal pregnancy.
- Again, like a regular pregnancy you will experience breast tenderness, nausea, and a missed period.
- Pelvic or abdominal pain
- Bleeding either light or possibly heavy, however heavy bleeding can signal that the fertilized egg settled in the cervix rather than in the fallopian tubes, as most ectopic pregnancies will. Tubal pregnancy is an alternative term due to this
- You may feel pain in your shoulder
- Some women feel an urge to have a bowel movement although they don't actually need to go
Signs of an Emergency Situation
- If the tube ruptures, a woman's situation becomes an emergency and immediate medical help is necessary.
- Heavy bleeding, which will have originated in the abdomen
- Light-headedness or fainting
- Pale appearance
- Severe abdominal or pelvic pain
Why Ectopic Pregnancies Occur
Normally a fertilized egg will travel down the fallopian tube and imbed in the uterus. In an ectopic pregnancy, the egg will most often attach itself inside the tube. However, in less common cases an egg may settle in the abdomen, on the cervix, or the ovary.
This is a situation that cannot be fixed so that the pregnancy can continue. A fertilized egg cannot grow and develop outside the uterus and if allowed to grow, the mother's organs may be harmed. If the tube ruptures, heavy blood loss can result in the death of the mother.
Causes of Ectopic Pregnancy
There are a number of factors that can lead to ectopic pregnancies. Some are beyond the control of the mother while others can be be attributed to maternal lifestyle choices.
- Birth control. Women who get pregnant while an IUD is implanted are more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy.
- Defects or structural anomalies in the mother's fallopian tubes.
- Complications from an appendix that ruptured.
- Scarring from past surgery or infections
- Previous ectopic pregnancies. With one previous ectopic pregnancy, the rate goes up to 20 percent; with two the rise is 32 percent.
- Being over 35 years of age
- Cigarette smoking
- Early age of first sexual activity
- Having had many sexual partners, especially if safe sex practices were not adhered to.
- Getting pregnant following a reversal surgery for tubal ligation
- In vitro fertilization
- Getting pregnant after having a tubal ligation, especially two or more years later.
- The most common cause of ectopic pregnancy is pelvic inflammatory disease. Gonorrhea and chlamydia are the typical culprits and even if the STDs are treated early, tubal damage may occur.
Diagnosing an Ectopic Pregnancy
To find out whether a woman is pregnant with an ectopic, a physician will usually perform certain tests including hCG pregnancy hormone tests will tell the difference by the levels of this hormone in the blood. Additionally a vaginal ultrasound will confirm the diagnosis.
Treating an Ectopic Pregnancy
The earlier treatment occurs the better the odds of preserving fertility in the woman. If caught early, a medication called methotrexate can be injected into the mother. This drug will stop cell growth and dissolve cells already present. Sometimes more than one dose is required.
If the ectopic pregnancy can't be treated with drugs, a laparoscopic procedure will be done to remove the ectopic pregnancy. This procedure will require only a small abdominal incision and will use tiny instruments and remove damaged areas. Sometimes the tube can be preserved,
If the tube ruptures and the mother is in shock treatment will include raising the feet, IV fluids will be administered, oxygen may be given, the mother will be kept warm and if necessary, a blood transfusion will be given.
A full one-third of women will have a successful pregnancy after having one episode of ectopic pregnancy. The outlook is better for younger women and women who have had children previously.
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