What is ectopic pregnancy?
A pregnancy begins with the fertilization of the egg in the fallopian tubes, which eventually settles down in the uterus for the nine-month gestation period. An ectopic pregnancy refers to the inability of the fertilized egg to attach itself to the uterus. Blockage of a fallopian tube is the main cause of ectopic pregnancy as it prevents the egg from passing through it and reaching the uterus. This may be caused by inflammation and scarring of the fallopian tubes from a previous medical condition, infection, or surgery; hormonal or genetic factors could also be the cause of the condition.
While it is perfectly possible for someone who has had an ectopic pregnancy in the past to have a normal one subsequently, in many cases, without adequate intervention, it may be difficult to conceive and sustain a normal pregnancy for women with a history of ectopic pregnancies.
What causes an ectopic pregnancy?
Some of the possible causes of ectopic pregnancies are – inflammation and scarring of the fallopian tubes from a previous medical condition, infection, or surgery; hormonal or genetic factors could also be the cause of the condition. Some lifestyle factors such as smoking and excessive alcohol consumption also cause ectopic pregnancies.
How do doctors diagnose ectopic pregnancies?
The detection of ectopic pregnancies can be done with the help of ultrasound scans and necessary blood work. In a common pregnancy test, the pregnancy hormone – human chorionic gonadotropin – is measured and it must increase at a specific rate. Should there be an ectopic pregnancy, this will show a variance. Secondly, the ultrasound of the lower abdomen will also help determine the location of the pregnancy.
How do doctors treat ectopic pregnancies?
The most common drug used to treat ectopic pregnancy is methotrexate. This drug stops cells from growing, which ends the pregnancy. The pregnancy then is absorbed by the body over 4–6 weeks. This does not require the removal of the fallopian tube. Methotrexate may be used if the pregnancy has not ruptured a fallopian tube. If the ectopic pregnancy has ruptured a tube, emergency surgery is needed. Sometimes surgery is needed even if the fallopian tube has not ruptured.
Surgeries that are used for the treatment include – Laparoscopy & Laparotomy. Laparoscopy is most common and uses small incisions to remove the ectopic pregnancy, as well as the tube should the same be necessary. A laparotomy requires a much larger incision.
Will I have complications?
The most common complication is a rupture with internal bleeding, which may lead to hypovolemic shock. While there are risks of complications, there are adequate risk-mitigating measures also available.
Will I be able to get pregnant after an ectopic pregnancy?
Once you have had an ectopic pregnancy, you are at higher risk of having another one. However, that does not rule out future pregnancies. During future pregnancies, be alert for ectopic pregnancy signs and symptoms until your ob-gyn or other health care professional confirms the next pregnancy is growing in the right place.