Ectopic pregnancies, also referred to as tubal pregnancies, are a serious risk. They cannot carry on to full term. Surgical procedures may be necessary to remove the egg so it does not rupture the Fallopian tube. Find out more about ectopic pregnancy, including more information about what they actually are, risk factors, symptoms, and more in this article, including statistics.
What is an ectopic pregnancy and why do they occur?
An ectopic pregnancy is an abnormal pregnancy where the fertilized egg attaches to somewhere outside the uterus, often in a fallopian tube (which is why is it often referred to as a tubal pregnancy). With this type of pregnancy the egg will not develop properly, if at all. WebMD reports that an "ectopic pregnancy is most likely to occur within the first few weeks of pregnancy and is usually discovered by the 8th week of pregnancy." Fertilized eggs need to be implanted in the inner lining of the uterus for successful development. A fertilized egg in the tubes can cause infections or result in the tubes rupturing.
Although this condition is very serious, the mortality rate is very low. Only about 4 or 5 women per 10,000 die from this condition.
Symptoms of ectopic pregnancy can include, in addition to normal pregnancy symptoms of missed period and such, vaginal bleeding or spotting, pelvic or abdominal pain or cramps, weakness, vertigo, feeling faint or fainting, referred pain such as in the back, rectum, neck, or other areas, and other indications. Severe pain may be an indication that the tube has ruptured.
When you become pregnant, whether you suspect it is ectopic or not, you should always see your doctor as soon as possible to monitor the development of the baby. The physician will run some blood tests, may perform a pelvic exam, and may perform an ultrasound and perhaps other tests as well.
Who is at risk to have a tubal pregnancy?
Statistically speaking, an ectopic pregnancy occurs in about 1 out of 50 pregnancies. Infections or inflammations in the Fallopian tubes can cause the egg to become trapped in the tubes because the tubes may become blocked. Scar tissue from infections or previous surgeries can also make a woman at high risk of developing an ectopic pregnancy. An abnormality in the shape of the Fallopian tube(s) or a birth defect are also some other causes of tubal pregnancies.
As a woman ages (35 years and older) she is at a higher risk of having an ectopic pregnancy. Anyone who has had a previous ectopic pregnancy is at a higher risk of having another one, although it is not written in stone that if a women has one ectopic pregnancy she will most certainly have another one; it is possible to have a successful pregnancy even after experiencing an ectopic pregnancy.
Women who have had induced abortions and other pelvic or abdominal surgeries, have received fertility treatments, have endometriosis, have had sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), and women who smoke are all at greater risk for ectopic pregnancy. Also, women who've gotten pregnant while an IUD is in place or after tubal ligation are at higher risk to develop ectopic pregnancy. All women, regardless of whether these risk factors are present, are potentially at risk of having an ectopic pregnancy.
PubMed Health reports: "One-third of women who have had one ectopic pregnancy are later able to have a baby. A repeated ectopic pregnancy may occur in one-third of women. Some women do not become pregnant again."
What can be done to treat an ectopic pregnancy?
"Ectopic pregnancies cannot continue to birth (term). The developing cells must be removed to save the mother's life," as reported by PubMed Health.
According to AmericanPregnancy.org: "Methotrexate may be given, which allows the body to absorb the pregnancy tissue and may save the fallopian tube, depending on how far the pregnancy has developed." In cases where the tube has ruptured, emergency surgery is usually needed to stop the bleeding and remove the egg. Other surgical procedures may be necessary to remove this type of pregnancy.
American Pregnancy Association: Ectopic Pregnancy
PubMed Health: Ectopic Pregnancy
MedicineNet.com: Ectopic Pregnancy
WebMD, Health and Pregnancy: Ectopic Pregnancy