What is an ectopic pregnancy – Symptoms and Treatments
What is an ectopic pregnancy?
An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg doesn’t make it down to the uterus. Most commonly, the egg gets lodged and begins to develop in one of the fallopian tubes. On more rare occasions, the egg remains on or near the ovary and begins to grow. Without the room needed to grow properly, the fertilized egg stretches the thin walls of the tube or ovary. This is why the condition is so dangerous. The growth of the fertilized egg will inevitably lead to a rupture of the thin walls of either of these areas, which can lead to major damage of the organs and even massive hemorrhaging. When a rupture occurs, immediate treatment is required in order to save the life of the mother.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms range widely and include:
- Breast tenderness
- Vaginal bleeding (ranging from dark spotting and increasing in severity)
- Pain in one side of abdomen (varying from light and intermittent to sudden, sharp and persistent).
- Pain in shoulder (as a result from ruptured ectopic that causes internal bleeding to pool in abdomen and push diaphragm upward)
Early symptoms may be easy to miss because they are similar to those in a normal pregnancy. However early detection is important so don’t hesitate to contact your health provider if you have any concerns about your pregnancy. Confirmation of diagnosis is obtained via ultrasound and close monitoring of the hormone HCG in a woman’s blood
How is an ectopic pregnancy treated?
The most common treatments are surgical. Minor surgery involves a laparoscopy and minimal possible damage to the affected area. More significant surgery may be needed if the pregnancy is more advanced, in which case part or all of the fallopian tube must be removed.
Some ectopic pregnancies respond to treatment through medication. Methotrexate, which is typically used to stop the growth of cancer cells, can be used only in the very early stages of pregnancy. While not approved specifically for the treatment of ectopic pregnancies, there has been documented success in using this drug. It is the least invasive method known to treat the condition, thus leaving a high probability for future, successful pregnancies.
How will having had an ectopic impact my future fertility?
If the tubes have been left in place, there is a fairly good chance that you can have a normal pregnancy in the future. However, once you have had an ectopic pregnancy, you are at higher risk for having another one, says Dr. Lukasz Rostocki of Perrysburg, Ohio. Therefore, it is important for women who have suffered an ectopic pregnancy to be monitored closely once they decide to try again to conceive.
Support for ectopic pregnancy is on the rise. Once a little known topic, ectopic pregnancy is starting to get the attention it needs and deserves. For those women who feel as though they are alone in this struggle, talk to your doctor or go online to search for the many support groups that are being formed to share experiences and provide the information necessary to help heal and move forward.
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