Pregnancy occurs in stages. The first stage is when the egg meets a sperm in the fallopian tube. When it fertilizes, it travels to the uterus to stay there until it is time for the birth. During an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg attaches elsewhere in the body and not in the uterus. It requires immediate medical attention.
What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?
Ectopic pregnancies occur when the fertilized egg attaches itself in the cervix, abdomen or the fallopian tube. It will show up as a pregnancy. But the pregnancy cannot progress anywhere else other than the uterus. It is easy to diagnose. The doctor will know it is an ectopic pregnancy during your first checkup itself. If you haven’t seen a doctor but suspect you are pregnant, the doctor will perform certain tests to confirm if it is indeed an ectopic pregnancy.
So, what happens in an ectopic pregnancy? If not treated in time, it can cause ruptures in the tube resulting in a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. Delay in treatment can also cause health complications or problems with future pregnancies.
What Causes Ectopic Pregnancy?
The cause of ectopic pregnancy is unclear. It can occur due to infection or damage present in the fallopian tubes. If a woman has a health problem that can affect her reproductive organs then it can cause the egg to implant elsewhere other than the uterus. Hormonal problems and genetic defects can also contribute to ectopic pregnancies.
Abnormal growth or scar tissues inside the tubes can affect the implantation process. Problems in the tube can be due to a previous surgical procedure.
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What are the Symptoms of Ectopic Pregnancy?
There are various signs and symptoms of ectopic pregnancy. Pain in the abdomen or pelvis can accompany an ectopic pregnancy. The pain in the abdomen can also occur on one side only Women can also experience sharp pain in the neck or the shoulders.
Fainting, dizziness, vaginal bleeding and rectal pressure are also possible if the fertilized egg remains outside of the uterus. If the sharp pain lasts for more than 5 minutes then you should inform your doctor about it.
What is the Treatment for Ectopic Pregnancy?
The embryo won’t grow to term in an ectopic pregnancy. The treatment involves removal of the embryo from the body as it poses a risk to the health of the mother. The doctor will determine the treatment course depending on the location of the embryo.Medicine is prescribed to stop the tube from rupturing. If the tube has already ruptured, surgery may be necessary to treat it. Laparotomy is the surgical procedure that is performed to remove the embryo and repair internal damage in the reproductive organs. Very rarely a second surgery is required. If the tube is considerably damaged, the doctor may remove all or part of it during the surgery.
Rest and recuperation is required after surgery. Women undergoing laparotomy will need to avoid strenuous activities for a week or two after surgery until the recovery is complete.
Risk factors for ectopic pregnancy include endometriosis, multiple abortions, smoking, pregnancy despite use of intrauterine device and use of fertility medicines. Women who have a history of sexually transmitted infections/diseases (STIs/STDs) are also at a greater risk of having ectopic pregnancies. The same applies to women who are older than 35 years and pregnant.
If you are planning to become pregnant, talk to your doctor and get an assessment of your overall health. Regular visits to the doctor for screening tests for STDs and gynecological exams can minimize the risks of ectopic pregnancies.
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