What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?
I have mentioned ectopic pregnancy a couple of times and you might well be wondering what an ectopic pregnancy is. Maybe I should explain. The word ectopic means 'out of place' and it means just that: a pregnancy which has implanted itself somewhere other than its normal resting place, the uterus. In short in the wrong place. This could be the Fallopian tube, the cervix, the ovary or even the abdominal cavity. Yes, it does happen, but how and why?
The Journey of Fallopian Tubes:
If you are even a little familiar with female anatomy, your very own, you will know that the tubes through which the fertilised or unfertilized ovum travels from the ovaries to the uterus is called a Fallopian tube. Normally, this journey of the ovum is quite smooth (the ovum does it every month) but if there is some problem in the Fallopian tube the safe passage of the fertilised ovum towards its intended destination(the uterus) can be blocked.
For instance, if there is some scarring in the tube, due to previous infection or inflammation the tube will partially block causing restriction of the free flow of the ovum to the uterus.
What happens next is that the ovum not able to journey further will embed where it is and starts developing there. Now the Fallopian tube or ovary is not geared to take this growth and faces the imminent danger of rupture and/or severe internal bleeding with further growth of the foetus. The situation could then get serious.
That is why it is important to get any abdominal pains, spotting or checked out. Ectopic pregnancies will usually diagnose between 5 and 14 weeks of pregnancy.
Two out of every ten women will get an ectopic pregnancy. Not a very encouraging figure is it? Could you be susceptible to it? If you smoke, have a history of the pelvic inflammatory disease, have had a tubal manipulation or if you have had a previous ectopic pregnancy, you could.
In many cases, there seems to be no obvious cause or good reason for this aberrance. That is why it doesn't hurt to be extra careful and watch out for any of the symptoms listed below.
You should get a check up as soon as possible to rule out ectopic pregnancy if you have any
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting
- Abdominal pain, especially if it is just on one side Pain in one or other of your shoulders
- Diarrhoea and Vomiting
- Feeling of faintness and/or dizzy spells
- Bowel pain
Your doctor will carry out some urine and blood tests, and also a simple transvaginal ultrasound exam. Sometimes, a laparoscopy under general anaesthesia might require if things are not clear.
Treatment for an Ectopic Pregnancy:
What then is the treatment for an ectopic pregnancy if diagnosed? Sadly there is no other treatment but the termination of the pregnancy. We cannot allow the foetus to grow in it's "out of place."
If this pregnancy is detected at an early stage then a medication called methotrexate is given to stop the egg from developing. Following this medication the pregnancy terminates and the remaining tissue will absorb by the body. However, methotrexate is not always required as the pregnancy naturally ends in around 50% of cases before it can grow.
If an ectopic pregnancy had detected later there is a risk that the fertilised ovum could grow larger and cause damage to the fallopian tube, leading to internal bleeding. If that happens then emergency surgery will require to stop the bleeding and repair the ruptured area.
Surgery can also be done to simply remove the pregnancy. Sometimes it is necessary to remove the tube with the pregnancy. This is called a salpingectomy. The tube may be removed through an opening in the abdomen, called an open procedure. It can also be removed through a small incision near the navel, using a laparoscope.
Women are more than often concerned about whether they will be able to conceive again after an ectopic pregnancy. Also whether they would they be able to have a normal pregnancy. There is every possibility of having a normal pregnancy in the future unless surgery had performed and/or the tubes removed. The doctor would advise the proper time to start trying for a pregnancy again but this is usually not before three months have passed.
An ectopic pregnancy is a traumatic and upsetting experience because it is, in fact, the loss of pregnancy. You may undergo feelings of sadness and grief, and that is natural. But it does not mean that you should not try again.