What is Ectopic pregnancy?
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus/ womb, usually in a fallopian tube, abdominal cavity, or cervix.
A fertilized egg can’t properly grow anywhere other than the uterus and its growth may damage the tube and surrounding structures. This may lead to loss of the pregnancy or a medical emergency for the pregnant woman.
How common is this?
An ectopic pregnancy is usually discovered between the 5th and 14th week of pregnancy and occurs in up to 1 out of every 90 pregnancies.
What causes an ectopic pregnancy?
The following conditions have been linked to an ectopic pregnancy:
- Inflammation and scarring of the fallopian tubes from a previous medical condition, infection, or surgery
- Hormonal factors
- Genetic abnormalities
- Birth defects
- Medical conditions that affect the shape and condition of the fallopian tubes and reproductive organs
What are the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy?
Common symptoms include:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Nausea and vomiting
- Lower abdominal pain, often on one side of the body
- Sharp abdominal cramps
- Diarrhea or vomiting
- Dizziness or weakness
- Pain in the shoulder tip, neck, or rectum
- If the fallopian tube ruptures, the pain, and bleeding could be severe
If you experience any of the symptoms listed above during pregnancy, seek medical advice immediately.
What are the treatment options?
If an ectopic is discovered, the surgeon can use laparoscopy (keyhole surgery) to cut the tube and remove the pregnancy, leaving the tube intact if it can be repaired. Laparoscopy has advantages over open abdominal surgery because the operation is quicker, less blood is lost during surgery, you don’t need to stay in the hospital for as long, and less analgesia (pain-killing medicine) is needed.
Whether the tube and pregnancy are removed altogether, or the pregnancy is removed and the tube repaired depends on how damaged the tube is, the health of your other fallopian tube and your desire for future pregnancy. If the tube has ruptured, doctors usually recommend abdominal surgery, because it is the quickest way to reduce blood loss. In some cases, a blood transfusion may be needed to replace lost blood.
In a small percentage of women, usually in cases where the tube has been saved (about 4 percent with keyhole surgery and 8 percent with open surgery) the pregnancy continues to grow and needs treatment with the drug methotrexate, which terminates