An Ectopic Pregnancy can be defined as a condition when the implantation and growth of the fertilized egg occur anywhere but not within the uterus. In a healthy pregnancy, after the egg is fertilized by the sperm, the fertilized egg moves the fallopian tube and attaches itself to the uterus. But in the case of ectopic pregnancy, the implantation can occur in the fallopian tube, ovaries, abdominal cavity, or lower part of the uterus that connects with the vagina. In either case, it leads to an abnormal pregnancy, where the growing mass of tissue cannot survive normally causing excessive bleeding and even life-threatening if not treated on time.
In most ectopic pregnancies, the fertilized egg gets stuck in the fallopian tube itself, leading to a condition called a tubal pregnancy. This generally happens if the fallopian tube has some inflammation, damaged or structurally defected. In certain cases, ectopic pregnancy can also happen due to abnormal development of the fertilized egg, some birth defects, genetic abnormalities, or due to an imbalance of hormones.
Ectopic Pregnancy is likely to happen in the case of the following causative factors.
Ectopic pregnancy is quite commonly seen in women aging 35 years or older.
Surgery in the fallopian tube to correct or open it may sometimes increase the risk of Ectopic Pregnancy.
Past Ectopic Pregnancy:
A previous ectopic pregnancy can aggravate the chances of having another one.
In certain cases, infertility issues or fertility treatments like Invitro fertilization and other procedures may sometimes go wrong and lead to ectopic pregnancy. Also Read: Pre-implantation Genetic Screening - Boon For Couples With Genetic Issues
The type of birth control being used can sometimes cause ectopic pregnancy. In case a woman, who does not wish to get pregnant is using IUD, i.e. an intrauterine device or has undergone the process of ligation, unexpected pregnancies occurring during this period, can often be ectopic in nature.
Infections such as gonorrhoea or chlamydia can cause inflammation in the fallopian tubes and the nearby organs and may ultimately cause an ectopic pregnancy.
This is one of the major causes if a woman trying to conceive has a habit of smoking, it increases the chances of having an ectopic pregnancy.
Certain cases, suffering from endometriosis, or Pelvic Inflammatory Disease can increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. Also Read: Endometriosis: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
At the onset of implantation, it is difficult to understand whether the pregnancy is ectopic in nature since the signs and symptoms are similar to a normal pregnancy. It usually causes a missed period, breast tenderness, nausea, and a positive sign in the home pregnancy test. But with time, as the fertilized egg grows in an unsuitable place, the signs slowly increase and indicate an emergency. These symptoms include:
- Intense pain in the lower abdomen, back, shoulders, pelvic or neck
- Light or heavy vaginal spotting or bleeding
- Pressure in the rectum
- Fainting or dizziness
If an ectopic pregnancy goes unnoticed, over time the growth of the fertilized egg may lead to a rupture of the fallopian tube which can be life-threatening.
Diagnosis And Treatment
It is strongly suggested to consult a doctor once you find out that you are pregnant after a home pregnancy test to check out if the implantation has occurred at the correct place. The doctor usually diagnoses an ectopic pregnancy by performing a pelvic examination which helps to detect areas of pain, tenderness, or a presence of a mass in the fallopian tube or ovary. This is followed by a few diagnostics:
Pregnancy Test: By analysing the presence of HCG (i.e. Human Chorionic Gonadotropin hormone) to confirm pregnancy.
Ultrasound: A transvaginal ultrasound is done to check the exact location of implantation.
Blood Tests: A complete blood count test is done to detect anaemic condition followed by a blood group test in case the surgery during ectopic pregnancy requires a blood transfusion.
Treatment options usually depend upon the time of diagnosis of the ectopic pregnancy. To prevent fatal or life-threatening conditions due to the growth of the fertilized egg in an improper place, the doctor usually removes the ectopic mass from the body. This can be done in 3 different ways:
- Laparoscopic procedures
- Abdominal Surgery
A loss of pregnancy even if it is ectopic in nature is quite devastating for any woman. Even after proper treatment, the person requires time and care to grieve the loss. It is suggested that the partner and the family provide total support in helping the woman get fully recovered.