What Are Symptoms Of Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy is one that develops outside the uterus. Learn all about this condition and how it is corrected.

According to research almost one in every 100 pregnancies is ectopic. An ectopic pregnancy is one that develops outside the uterus. This type of pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg becomes stuck in the fallopian tube if the tube is damaged or abnormal, in the ovary or on rare occasions in the cervix or abdominal cavity. Some of the risk factors that might lead to an ectopic pregnancy might include congenital abnormalities of the fallopian tubes, using an IUD, taking progesterone only birth control pills, ingesting postcoital hormonal contraceptives, a failed sterilization, fallopian tube infections and surgery on the fallopian tubes. In most cases an ectopic pregnancy will develop in on of the fallopian tubes and is commonly called a tubal pregnancy. It is rare for this type of pregnancy to occur in other areas of the body. Even so this type of pregnancy is becoming more common.

In a normal pregnancy the egg is released from one ovary after which it is swept to the fallopian tube opening. The egg is then moved forward by tiny hair like cilia within the tube into the fallopian tubes where it becomes fertilized. It is then implanted in the uterus after several days. But, when the tube is blocked the egg will move slowly or become stuck resulting in an ectopic pregnancy. In most cases an ectopic pregnancy is discovered within the first two months and often before the woman is aware of the pregnancy. Symptoms include cramping and spotting that occur when the menstrual cycle is late. When the fetus dies at an early stage of the ectopic pregnancy the fallopian tube, in most cases, is not damaged. But when the fetus continues to grow it can tear the walls of the tube and cause bleeding. When the bleeding is gradual a sensation of pressure in the lower abdomen may be felt, as well as some pain. If the bleeding tends to be heavier there is a possibility that the blood pressure may be severely lowered causing shock.

With an ectopic pregnancy it is typical after 6 to 8 weeks for a sharp sudden pain to occur that is usually followed by fainting. When this occurs it is an indication that the tube has ruptured with massive bleeding into the abdomen. In cases where the ectopic pregnancy develops partially in the tube and partially inside the uterus a rupture might generally occur between the twelfth and sixteenth week of pregnancy. This type of rupture is highly dangerous and has a higher mortality rate. When doctors suspect an ectopic pregnancy due to symptoms but the uterus is smaller than expected for the length of the pregnancy, blood and urine test will be taken to confirm the pregnancy. An ultrasound scan will be used to show that the uterus is empty and to look for blood in the pelvic or abdominal cavity.

The doctor may then use a laparoscope to view the ectopic pregnancy and in some cases a culdocentesis may be preformed. In most cases this type of pregnancy must be surgically removed. This is often performed through a laparoscope. But when a tubal pregnancy is diagnosed early the drug methotrexate may be used instead. It is only in rare cases that the fallopian tube is damaged to the point that it is necessary for it to be removed. When this occurs it may lower the chances of conception but it is still possible to have a normal pregnancy.

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