Signs and Symptoms of an Ectopic Pregnancy:
My Ectopic Pregnancy Story:
Today want to talk about ectopic pregnancy but before I do I want to share a story about my own personal experience with an ectopic, which could have been fatal!
Years ago, I suffered a miscarriage and had to have a D and C (also known as dilation and curettage), which is a surgical procedure often performed after a first trimester miscarriage. Dilation means to open up the cervix; curettage means to remove the contents, the products of conception.
A month later I had some abnormal bleeding but thought that my periods were just trying to regulate after my miscarriage.
One evening I bent over to pick something up and suddenly felt very ill, dizzy, with diarrhea and sharp pain. I started to feel better for few hours but then suddenly again started to feel very ill, so I crawled into bed just thinking I was sick. By the time I realized I was in trouble I was too weak to call for help.
Thankfully a family member came by my home and found me there, in my bed, too weak to get up.
I was suffering from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy and I didn’t even know I was pregnant. I was bleeding internally. If it had not been for her I would have died.
I was rushed to the hospital and they performed the necessary surgery that saved my life.
I wanted to share this with you so you know how important and life threatening an ectopic pregnancy is.
So it’s important to understand first…
What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?
An ectopic, or tubal pregnancy is one in which the fertilized egg attaches itself in a place other than within the lining of the uterus. More than 95 % of ectopic pregnancies occur in a fallopian tube but they can also occur in the abdomen, ovary or cervix.
How does an Ectopic Pregnancy Occur?
An ectopic pregnancy occurs approximately in 2% of all pregnancies. Sperm is the smallest cell in the body and an egg from the Mother is the largest cell in the body so although a sperm may finds its way to the egg the newly fertilized egg may not be able to find its way back through the tube to the uterus successfully, especially as it is growing.
Ectopic pregnancies can also happen with invitro fetilization. Yes that’s right, an implanted egg can go back into the fallopian tube, this is called retrograde embryo migration.
Because the fallopian tube is too narrow to hold a growing baby, ectopic pregnancies cannot proceed normally. Eventually the walls of the fallopian tube stretch causing the tube to rupture putting the woman in danger of life threatening blood loss.
Ectopic pregnancy can also be difficult to diagnose because symptoms often mirror those of a normal early pregnancy. These can include a missed period, breast tenderness, nausea, vomiting, fatigue and frequent urination.
In addition you may start bleeding and think that this is a normal period not even being aware that you are pregnant as in my story.
How are Ectopic Pregnancies Diagnosed?
The warning signs of an ectopic pregnancy are most often a mix of pain, vaginal bleeding and an adnexal mass or pelvic swelling (The adnexa is the area where your ovaries live), but these symptoms are present in only 45% of ectopic pregnancies.
There might also be pain in the pelvis, generalized abdominal pain, or even shoulder pain. Shoulder pain can be caused when blood from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy irritates the lining of your abdomen, this pain can manifest in the shoulder. Pain can be mild cramps or more sever sharp or stabbing pain.
Other warning signs of ectopic pregnancy include gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea. You may also experience dizziness and lightheadedness because your blood pressure may drop.
If you experience any of these symptoms contact your health care provider right away.
Your doctor will test to see if you are indeed pregnant. If you are pregnant, your doctor will likely want to rule out ectopic pregnancy first although there may be other reasons for your symptoms.
Unless your condition is obvious or you’re clearly in an emergency situation, lab tests and ultrasound are almost always used to confirm diagnosis.
How are Ectopic Pregnancies Treated?
Narrow fallopian tubes aren’t designed to hold a growing embryo. As a result the fertilized egg cannot develop normally.
The pregnancy must be removed to prevent the rupture of the tube and other complications.
If you receive a diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy surgery is the most common treatment method. It’s often possible to remove an ectopic pregnancy laparoscopically (known as key hole surgery).
In this procedure, a small incision is made in the lower abdomen near the navel. The surgeon inserts a long surgical instrument called a laparoscope. This allows the surgeon to see and remove the ectopic pregnancy and to repair or remove the fallopian tube.
In certain circumstances medication called methotrexate can be used to treat an early ectopic pregnancy. Methotrexate stops the growth of rapidly dividing cells, such as embryonic, fetal, or early placenta cells.Methotrexate treatment can be given orally or as a single shot or as several injections. Hormone levels and size of the ectopic gestation will be the deciding factor in determining the best treatment. This is something you will want to speak to your doctor about.
Factors known to Increase the Risk of Tubal or Ectopic Pregnancy:
• An infection or inflammation of the tube that has caused it to become partly or entirely blocked
• Previous surgery in the pelvic area or the fallopian tubes or a D/C from a previous miscarriage
• A condition called endometriosis in which tissue that normally lines the uterus is found outside the uterus, causing a blockage.
• An abnormality in the shape of a fallopian tube
• The highest risk factor for ectopic pregnancy is pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), an infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries. The risk can be as high as 27 %.
• The risk of ectopic pregnancy is also higher in women who have had any of the following:
• Previous ectopic pregnancy because the risk factors are still present
• Surgery on a fallopian tube
• Infertility problems as 4.5% of embryos transferred can travel into the tube
• Medication to stimulate ovulation.
• Intrauterine contraception device
What Are The Chances of a Future Successful Pregnancy?
If you have had an ectopic pregnancy the pregnancy your chances of having a successful pregnancy outcome are a bit lower but are still very good. Even if one fallopian tube has been removed, you still have more than a 40 % chance of a successful pregnancy but your chances of having another ectopic pregnancy increases around 12.6 % so your health care provider should monitor you closely the next time you conceive.
To summarize if a woman is capable of conceiving she is capable of having an ectopic pregnancy, so you’ll want to watch out for any warning signs and if you are worried to contact your health care provider.
I hope that gives you a better understanding of ectopic pregnancy. If you have any question please join the conversation in the forums.