An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus. In 95% of ectopic pregnancies, the egg implants in one of the fallopian tubes. For this reason, the condition is sometimes called a tubal pregnancy. The other 5% generally attach to the abdomen, ovary or cervix.
The causes of ectopic pregnancy include:
* Infection in the tubes
* Inflammation in the tubes
* Scar tissue
* Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
The early symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are similar to the normal symptoms of pregnancy. These include nausea, sore breasts, a missed period and frequent urination. Other symptoms occur which are cause for concern, such as spotting or bleeding, pain in the back or shoulders, dizziness, drop in blood pressure, pain in the abdomen, and a sharp pain in one side of the pelvis. If you have any of these symptoms, call your doctor immediately.
You will be given a blood test to check your HCG level. This is the hormone that is detected by early pregnancy tests. In ectopic pregnancy, the level is lower or fails to increase as it should. The blood test will measure your level and your doctor will compare this information to the stage of your pregnancy.
The doctor may give you a pelvic exam and/or an ultrasound to detect an ectopic pregnancy. The doctor will be looking for masses both inside and outside the uterus, indicating where the pregnancy is located. This can’t always be seen prior to six weeks of pregnancy on the ultrasound. You may be monitored every few days to be sure.
Treatment depends upon the stage of your pregnancy. Every attempt will be made to preserve your future fertility. An injection of a drug called methotrexate is used to dissolve the pregnancy. This is then absorbed by your body. This is most effective in very early pregnancies. It is used to minimize scarring, which can interfere with future attempts to conceive.
A later diagnosis will require surgery to remove the tissue. This is generally done with a laparoscope. Two small incisions are made in the abdomen. The pregnancy is removed and surrounding tissue is removed or repaired. In some cases, the fallopian tube must be removed as well. Even if this happens, there is still a 40% of conceiving again naturally with one tube.
Whether medication or surgery is used, you will be monitored for several weeks. Blood tests will be done to measure your HCG level. This will be done until the level drops back down to zero. If the level doesn’t drop, it is an indication that some of the tissue may have been missed. Although ectopic pregnancy is heartbreaking and nothing can be done to save the pregnancy, there is a lot the doctor can do to help you conceive again.