Ectopic Pregnancy Symptoms

Ectopic pregnancy symptoms, causes, and treatment.

With an ectopic pregnancy the beginning of life starts outside of the uterus. Because most ectopic pregnancies develop inside the fallopian tubes, most people refer to them as tubal pregnancies. Ectopic pregnancies cannot develop normally, only the uterus contains the space and nutrient rich tissues that are required to nurture a fetus. One other location an ectopic pregnancy can occur is in the ovary itself. Because the ovaries and fallopian tubes are so narrow, a developing pregnancy can cause a rupture. A ruptured tube can produce severe bleeding and can be life threatening. An ectopic pregnancy can occur anywhere in the pelvic area.

It is estimated that 1 in every 200 pregnancies results in an ectopic pregnancy. Once you have experienced an ectopic pregnancy, if you conceive again you have a 10-15% greater risk of having another. Approximately 30% of women who have had an ectopic pregnancy will have difficulty getting pregnant again. There is no clear reason for ectopic pregnancies. If you develop one, there is a great chance that you have some sort of scarring within your uterus or fallopian tubes. This may have been caused by infection, a previous ectopic pregnancy, the use of an IUD or as a result of your mother taking (DES) Diethylstilbestrol during your own fetal development. If you became pregnant while using an IUD or if you had surgery on your fallopian tubes in the past, such as a tubal ligation, you may be at a higher risk for an ectopic pregnancy.

Symptoms to look for in an ectopic pregnancy:

* Abdominal or pelvic pain.

* A missed period.

* Signs of early pregnancy.

* Vaginal bleeding not caused by menstruation.

* Dizziness or fainting.

* Low blood pressure when bleeding is severe.

If you have symptoms that suggest an ectopic pregnancy, your doctor will want to examine you immediately. He will perform a pelvic exam to determine if your uterus is enlarged. During the exam he will also try to feel for a mass in the area of the ovaries and fallopian tubes indicating where most ectopic pregnancies develop.

Another test is to check hormone levels in the blood. The hormone HCG will be lower with an ectopic pregnancy than in a normal one. Also the progesterone hormone in an ectopic pregnancy will be lower as well. Depending on the levels, the doctor may require you to have blood drawn on several consecutive days in a row to see whether the hormone levels decrease or increase. Your doctor will also perform an ultrasound to see where the pregnancy lies. If it is suspected that the pregnancy has caused a rupture then a needle will be inserted through the vaginal canal and into the pelvis to see whether it is bleeding internally.

The diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy is usually under emergency conditions. These types of pregnancies can rupture at any time. If you have been diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy, treatment will depend on the location, size and whether you want to be able to become pregnant in the future. Ectopic pregnancies caught early can sometimes be treated with medication. More advanced pregnancies or if the pregnancy has ruptured, may require surgery. In the past, doctors would have to remove the entire fallopian tube when the ectopic pregnancy was located there. Now it is possible for the majority of the fallopian tube to be salvaged so you have a better chance of getting pregnant again. Depending on the size of the of the ectopic pregnancy and whether or not it has caused the fallopian tube to rupture, surgery can be performed by doing a laparotomy or a laparoscopy.

At this time there is no known way to prevent an ectopic pregnancy. If you are sexually active and not trying to conceive, you can decrease your risk by using condoms to protect against infection. If you use an IUD, yearly checkups and pelvic exams are necessary. If you develop or suspect any pelvic infection from a urinary tract infection to a sexually transmitted disease, contact your doctor immediately for treatment.

Make sure to contact your doctor if you experience:

* A missed period or other signs of pregnancy.

* You develop any abnormal vaginal bleeding while pregnant or in between periods.

* You develop pelvic or abdominal pain while pregnant or in between periods.

* If you have dizziness or faint during pregnancy or while menstruating.

* If you experience pain in your shoulder (especially the left one) during pregnancy.

* Also check with a physician if you suspect a problem or infection while pregnant, proper treatment and medical care can help to prevent any further complications or the need for surgery.

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