Pregnancy normally involves several stages in a woman's body, right from fertilization to childbirth. The movement of the fertilized egg to the uterus, where it attaches itself, is one of these stages. However, the fertilized egg may sometimes fail to implant in the uterus, resulting in an ectopic pregnancy. Instead, it could attach itself to the fallopian tube, cervix, or abdominal cavity.
Generally, ectopic pregnancy can be fatal and requires immediate medical attention. It is not a normal pregnancy that a woman can carry to term. Besides, it could cause severe complications to the mother if the problem is not addressed promptly.
Signs and Symptoms of Ectopic Pregnancy
At first, one may not perceive any ectopic pregnancy symptoms. Other women with an ectopic pregnancy, on the other hand, can experience the common early signs and symptoms of pregnancy. These can include a missed period, nausea, or breast soreness.
The pregnancy test results might be positive. Even yet, a woman cannot carry an ectopic pregnancy as usual. The signs and symptoms tend to become increasingly noticeable when the fertilized egg develops in the wrong area.
- Early warning signs of an ectopic pregnancy
Pelvic pain and light vaginal bleeding are frequently the first early symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy. If the blood seeps out of the fallopian tube, you might experience shoulder pain or a strong urge for bowel movement. The location of the blood pool and the nerves affected determine your symptoms.
- Symptoms of an emergency
When the fertilized egg keeps on growing within the fallopian tube, the tube may break with time. In most cases, severe bleeding in the abdomen is possible. Extreme lightheadedness, shock, and fainting are all symptoms of such a fatal occurrence.
Cause of Ectopic Pregnancy
The causes of an ectopic pregnancy are not always obvious. The following medical problems have been associated with ectopic pregnancy in certain cases;
- A previous illness, infection, or surgical procedure, which can cause scarring and inflammation of the fallopian tubes.
- Hormonal aspects
- Hereditary anomalies
- Problems with delivery
- Medical diseases that influence the fallopian tubes' form and function, as well as reproductive organs
Risk Factors of Ectopic Pregnancy
The following risk factors of ectopic pregnancy can increase your chances of having one:
- A previous ectopic pregnancy: You are at a higher risk of having another ectopic pregnancy if you have had one previously.
- Treatments for infertility: According to several studies, women who have undergone IVF or equivalent therapies are more likely to experience an ectopic pregnancy. At times, infertility can also increase your risk.
- Inflammation and infection: Infections transferred through sexual contact, including gonorrhea and chlamydia, can lead to inflammation in the fallopian tubes and the surrounding organs. This increases your chances of an ectopic pregnancy.
- Birth control options: Becoming pregnant while having an intrauterine device (IUD) is unlikely. But if you conceive while wearing an IUD by chance, the possibility of the pregnancy becoming ectopic is high. Tubal ligation is a permanent form of birth control that increases your risk if you get pregnant after the treatment.
- Tubal operation: The chances of an ectopic pregnancy might increase following a surgical procedure to repair a damaged or closed fallopian tube.
- Smoking: Normally, cigarette smoking before becoming pregnant can raise your chances of having an ectopic pregnancy. The risk tends to increase if you smoke more often.
Ectopic Pregnancy Diagnosis
In most cases, an ectopic pregnancy is discovered during a routine visit to your doctor's office. With an ectopic pregnancy diagnosis, the gynecologist will run a few tests to confirm pregnancy before looking for signs of an ectopic pregnancy. You may thus undergo the following tests;
- Pregnancy test
The medical provider will perform a human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) blood test to determine if you are pregnant. When one is pregnant, the level of this hormone rises. This test can be repeated for several days till the ultrasound can rule out or verify an ectopic pregnancy. This is usually 5 to 6 weeks following conception.
- Ultrasound testing
Your doctor can view the actual location of the pregnancy using a transvaginal ultrasound. A wand-like instrument is inserted into the vaginal canal during this test. Using sound waves, it generates pictures of the ovaries, uterus, and fallopian tubes and delivers them to the linked computer.
Alternatively, the doctor can use an abdominal ultrasound, which involves moving an ultrasound wand over the belly to verify the pregnancy or check for internal bleeding.
- Blood tests
A full blood count may be performed to check or rule out anemia and other symptoms of blood loss. For a person who has been diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy, the physician can order blood tests to determine if you require a transfusion.
Ectopic Pregnancy Treatment
Ectopic pregnancies are generally dangerous to the mother's health and safety. Furthermore, the embryo will not be able to grow to full term. For the immediate health and fertility of the mother, the embryo has to be removed right away. The ectopic pregnancy treatment choices can differ based on where it is located and how it develops. They can include;
Methotrexate is a drug that stops or slows cell development and dissolves the available cells. The doctor can prescribe this medication to treat an early ectopic pregnancy with no unstable hemorrhage. This drug can be administered through an injection. However, before undergoing this treatment, the ectopic pregnancy diagnosis must be confirmed.
Your medical provider will schedule another HCG test after the injection to see how well the cure is working. They will also determine if you require additional medication.
According to most surgeons taking the embryo out and correcting internal damage is necessary. A laparotomy is a medical term for this surgery. To ensure that they can view the surgical area, the surgeon will place a tiny camera via a small cut. After that, the embryo is removed, and any damage to the fallopian tube is repaired.
If the surgical procedure fails, the surgeon can conduct another laparotomy using a bigger incision this time. If your fallopian tube is damaged, your doctor might have to take it out during surgery.
Home care after a surgical procedure:
After surgery, your medical provider will provide you with precise instructions on caring for your incisions. The most important thing to do is to maintain your incisions dry and clean as they heal. Examine them from time to time for any signs of infection, which may include the following;
- Bleeding that persist
- Too much bleeding
- Drainage from the surgical site with a foul smell
- Warm to the touch
- Redness and swelling
After surgery, you should expect some minor vaginal bleeding and light blood clots. This could happen for up to 6 weeks following your treatment. You can also consider the following self-care measures:
- Avoid lifting anything much heavier than ten pounds.
- To avoid constipation, drink a lot of water.
- Pelvic rest, which entails abstaining from sexual intercourse, using a tampon, and douching.
- Take enough rest as much as possible, especially on the first week after surgery; after that, gradually increase activities you can tolerate in the weeks following.
If the pain and discomfort worsen or you notice something unusual, see your doctor right away.
Long Term Prognosis for an Ectopic Pregnancy
The prognosis for an ectopic pregnancy relies on whether or not it is due to physical damage. The majority of women who experience ectopic pregnancy have a normal healthy pregnancy. The egg may be fertilized normally if the two fallopian tubes (or just one) are still in one piece.
On the other hand, when you have an already existing reproductive condition, it may impact your fertility in the future and increase the chances of ectopic pregnancy. This is most likely true if the existing reproductive issue has resulted in ectopic pregnancy in the past.
A surgical procedure can damage the fallopian tubes, increasing the risk of ectopic pregnancy in the future. Consult your medical provider about potential treatments of fertility if one or both fallopian tubes have to be removed. In vitro fertilization is an example and entails the implantation of a fertilized egg in the womb.
Loss of pregnancy, regardless of how early it occurs, could be distressing. Consult your medical provider if there are any local support groups that can help you cope with your loss. Also, take a rest, eat healthy foods, and exercise as much as you can after your loss to ensure you remain healthy. Allow yourself to grieve after such a loss.
An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs out of the uterus. Suppose a fertilized egg attaches itself to the body structure that does not support growth, an ectopic pregnancy results. The fallopian tube is frequently the site of an ectopic pregnancy.
When an ectopic pregnancy is left untreated, it may become a medical emergency. On the contrary, on-time treatment lowers your risk of having ectopic pregnancy complications. This increases your future possibilities of conceiving, having normal pregnancies, and reducing future health risks.