Ectopic Pregnancy Symptoms & Treatment
An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs outside the womb (uterus). It is life-threatening to the mother. Alternative Names:
In most pregnancies, the fertilized egg travels through the fallopian tube to the womb (uterus). Anything that blocks or slows the movement of this egg through these tubes can lead to ectopic pregnancy: Birth defect in the fallopian tubes Scarring after a ruptured appendix Endometriosis Having an ectopic pregnancy before Scarring from past infections or surgery of the female organs
The following also increase your risk of an ectopic pregnancy: Age over 35 Getting pregnant while having an intrauterine device (IUD) Had surgery to untie tubes (tubal sterilization) to become pregnant Having had many sexual partners Some infertility treatments Having your tubes tied (tubal ligation) - more likely 2 or more years after the procedure Had surgery to untie tubes in order to get pregnant
The most common site for an ectopic pregnancy is within one of the two fallopian tubes. In rare cases, ectopic pregnancies can occur in the ovary, abdomen, or cervix .
An ectopic pregnancy can occur even if you use birth control. Symptoms: You may have early pregnancy symptoms, such as breast tenderness or nausea. Other symptoms may include: Abnormal vaginal bleeding Low back painMild cramping on one side of the pelvisNo periodsPain in the lower belly or pelvic area
If the area around the abnormal pregnancy ruptures and bleeds, symptoms may get worse. They may include:Fainting or feel faintIntense pressure in the rectumLow blood pressurePain in the shoulder areaSevere, sharp, and sudden pain in the lower abdomen Signs and tests:
HCG is a hormone normally produced during pregnancy. Checking the blood level of this hormone (quantitative HCG blood test ) can diagnose pregnancy. If the blood level of HCG is not rising fast enough, your doctor may suspect an ectopic pregnancy. Treatment:
Ectopic pregnancy is life-threatening. The pregnancy cannot continue to birth (term). The developing cells must be removed to save the mother's life.
You will need emergency medical help if the area of the ectopic pregnancy breaks open (ruptures). Rupture can lead to bleeding and shock, an emergency condition. Treatment for shock may include: Blood transfusion Fluids given through a vein Keeping warm Oxygen Raising the legs
If there is a rupture, surgery is done to stop blood loss and remove the pregnancy. In some cases, the doctor may have to remove the fallopian tube.
If the ectopic pregnancy has not ruptured, treatment may include: Surgery Medicine that ends the pregnancy, along with close monitoring by your doctor Expectations (prognosis):
One out of three women who have had one ectopic pregnancy are later able to have a baby. Another ectopic pregnancy is more likely to occur. Some women do not become pregnant again.
The likelihood of a successful pregnancy after an ectopic pregnancy depends on: The woman's age Whether she has already had children Why the first ectopic pregnancy occurred Calling your health care provider:
Most forms of ectopic pregnancy that occur outside the fallopian tubes are probably not preventable. But a tubal pregnancy may be prevented in some cases by avoiding conditions that might scar the fallopian tubes. The following may reduce your risk: Practicing safer sex by taking steps before and during sex, which can prevent you from getting an infection Getting early diagnosis and treatment of all infections caused by sexual relations (STDs) Stopping smoking References: American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. ACOG Practice Bulletin No.94: Medical management of ectopic pregnancy. Obstet Gynecol. 2008;111:1479–1485. Reaffirmed 2012.
Houry DE, Salhi BA. Acute complications of pregnancy. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 176.
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Mrs Nitu Bajekal MD FRCOG - Consultant Gynaecologist - Ectopic Pregnancy
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