An ectopic pregnancy is devastating on many levels. The loss of any pregnancy packs an emotional punch, even one that is unviable. Additionally, an ectopic pregnancy can be a life-threatening event for the mother, and, depending on how early you find that your pregnancy is ectopic, your future fertility may be at stake, due to the damage this event inflicts on your reproductive organs, typically your fallopian tubes.
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg attaches itself in another place besides the inside of the uterus. Ectopic pregnancies occur in 1 out of every 50 pregnancies, and almost always inside one of the fallopian tubes. Your fallopian tubes, and other reproductive anatomy other than the uterus, are not designed to support pregnancy. The embryo will not grow, nor develop, so the pregnancy is deemed unviable and must be treated before it causes a catastrophic health event.
6 Things You Need to Know About Ectopic Pregnancy
While most women have an understanding of ectopic pregnancy, there are still some facts that aren’t well known. Myths and misunderstandings still surround these types of pregnancy events, unfortunately, and often add to the devastation and confusion of ectopic pregnancy. Here are 6 things you need to know about this condition:
- An ectopic pregnancy initially presents as a normal pregnancy.Because there is a presence of the pregnancy hormone hCG, you will have a positive pregnancy test. You will also experience many of the common symptoms of early pregnancy. However, fetal survival in an ectopic pregnancy is extremely rare, and continuing with the pregnancy will likely result in grave risk to the mother’s overall health, and future fertility, as well as loss of the pregnancy at some point.
- You may not discover your ectopic pregnancy until you have an ultrasound.In most obstetrical practices, ultrasounds are performed at about 6-8 weeks after a positive pregnancy test. If you haven’t had any symptoms of ectopic pregnancy, you may not know you’re suffering from one until that time.
- The symptoms of ectopic pregnancy are painful.If you suspect you’re pregnant, you’ll be experiencing a lot of different physical symptoms, some of them uncomfortable, as your body adjusts. The symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are quite different and very painful. Sharp abdominal pains, or intense pain in your pelvic area, that intensify with movement, weakness, and flulike symptoms, and vaginal bleeding, are all signs something is amiss. Seek medical attention if you experience any of these symptoms and suspect you’re pregnant.
- Surgery isn’t always necessary to treat an ectopic pregnancy. In fact, surgery is often times a last resort. If the ectopic pregnancy is caught early enough, your doctor will possibly monitor you and employ what is called “expectant management”. Your doctor measures your hCG levels by blood tests to determine if the pregnancy is ending naturally. As long as your doctor is watching you closely this type of treatment is safe. There are also medications used to treat ectopic pregnancy. If surgery becomes necessary, there are some surgical methods which can preserve your fallopian tube, at least to some extent. In cases of emergency, more advanced methods may need to be used to save the life of the mother.
- An ectopic pregnancy doesn’t render you infertile. Obviously, if your ectopic pregnancy resulted in the removal of your fallopian tube, you will have a more difficult time getting pregnant, but, even with one fallopian tube, you’ll have a 50% chance of pregnancy. You will be at a higher risk for a second ectopic pregnancy, which is why it is recommended that you consult with your ob-gyn or an infertility specialist prior to your next pregnancy.
- Although it’s possible for any woman to experience an ectopic pregnancy, there are some factors which can increase your risk.They are:
- Prior abdominal or pelvic surgeries
- Tubal disease
- Having had a sexually transmitted infection
- Cigarette smoking
- Prior infertility treatment
- Having an IUD in place when pregnancy occurs
- Having had a previous ectopic pregnancy
Don’t Wait to Confirm Your Suspicions
If you suspect you’re experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, don’t wait. Contact your obstetrician and find out-for your own peace of mind. If your pregnancy is ectopic, get treatment right away. Your life, and future fertility, depend on swift action.
If you had one ectopic pregnancy already and you’re pregnant again, assume that it is another ectopic unless and until it is proven otherwise. Call your health care provider immediately once you do a pregnancy test and make sure they follow you very closely and document the pregnancy is in the uterus.