Ectopic Pregnancy

August 13, 2010

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What is Ectopic Pregnancy?

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg attaches somewhere outside of the uterus. Most ectopic pregnancies, 95 percent, occur in the fallopian tubes, however they can also occur in the cervix, ovary, or peritoneal cavity (abdominal area).

Ectopic pregnancy occurs in 1 in 60 pregnancies.

What Causes Ectopic Pregnancy?

Ectopic pregnancy is often caused by fallopian tube abnormalities. Infections, or inflammation can cause the fallopian tube to be blocked. Endometriosis can also cause blockage of the fallopian tube.

Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) puts a woman at high risk of ectopic pregnancy.

Douching, previous pelvic surgery, and infertility treatments cause a higher risk for ectopic pregnancies.

STDs cause an elevated risk of ectopic pregnancy.

Signs and Symptoms of Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy may not be apparent immediately. At first the signs and symptoms are the same as a normal pregnancy.

The first sign of ectopic pregnancy is pain. Pain can begin as a dull ache that progresses into cramping and tenderness. Pain usually begins on one side, but can spread to both sides of the pelvis.

You may feel sharp, stabbing pain in your pelvis, abdomen and even in the neck and shoulders.

Other symptoms are intestinal upset, dizziness, and feeling faint.

Treatment of Ectopic Pregnancy

If you suspect ectopic pregnancy, contact your healthcare provider. Your health care provider will order blood tests and an ultrasound to diagnose ectopic pregnancy.

If you are diagnosed with ectopic pregnancy, generally surgery is required in order to prevent the rupture of the fallopian tube. Laparoscopy can usually be performed to repair or remove the fallopian tube. Laparoscopy involves making a tiny incision in the abdomen.

Some ectopic pregnancies can be treated with oral medication that causes the embryo to stop growing and reabsorb into the maternal tissues.

Sometimes ectopic pregnancies can cure themselves. On some occasions, your health care provider may recommend observation to see if the ectopic pregnancy will end on its own.

Treatment of ectopic pregnancy depends on how early it is detected, and how large it is.

Fertility After Ectopic Pregnancy

After an ectopic pregnancy, about 60 to 80 percent of women are able to get pregnant again.

After you have had an ectopic pregnancy, you are more likely to have another one if you get pregnant again. Among pregnancies that occur after ectopic pregnancy, about 10-15 percent of subsequent pregnancies are ectopic. When a woman has had two or more ectopic pregnancies, the chance of having a normal pregnancy is 50 percent.

If one or more ectopic pregnancies have injured both fallopian tubes, in vitro fertilization (IVF) may be performed.

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