what is an ectopic pregnancy?An ectopic pregnancy occurs outside the womb, often in one of the fallopian tubes. To become pregnant, the ovaries release an egg into the fallopian tube on the fourteenth day of a woman’s menstrual cycle. If sperm fertilizes the egg, the egg travels from the fallopian tube to the uterus, where it attaches to the lining. However, if the fertilized egg attaches in the fallopian tube or outside the uterus, a woman develops an ectopic pregnancy. Researchers believe that 2% of pregnancies are ectopic. Because the fetus cannot survive and the mom could suffer life-threatening internal bleeding, the pregnancy can’t continue normally. It sometimes requires emergency treatment.

What are the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy?

The initial symptoms are similar to a normally progressing pregnancy: missed period, nausea, fatigue, and breast tenderness. However, in an ectopic pregnancy, light vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain are usually the first symptoms. Other symptoms could include: vomiting with pain, sharp abdominal cramps, dizziness or weakness, pain in the rectum, neck or shoulder.

How long does an ectopic pregnancy last?

With an ectopic pregnancy, the structure, such as a fallopian tube, containing the fetus typically ruptures between 6 to 15 weeks. When an ectopic pregnancy ruptures, bleeding may be severe.

How do I know if I have an ectopic pregnancy?

Your doctor will likely perform a pregnancy test and a pelvic exam to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy. She may also use an ultrasound to examine the uterus and fallopian tube. In some cases, the diagnosis will be confirmed by inserting a laparoscope into the abdomen through an incision below the navel.

If the doctor confirms you have an ectopic pregnancy, he or she will discuss your treatment options with you based on your medical condition and your future plans for pregnancy.

Treatments

Because a fertilized egg needs to grow inside a uterus to survive, the tissue has to be removed to keep you from having serious complications, such as heavy bleeding or infertility. Two methods are used to treat it: medication and surgery.

Medication:

Most ectopic pregnancies don’t need surgery if they’re caught early in the pregnancy. If your tubes haven’t ruptured, your doctor can give you an injection of methotrexate (Trexall). The medicine stops the cells from growing.

Surgery:

In other cases, surgery, such as laparoscopy is necessary. Your doctor will remove the ectopic pregnancy through very small incisions in your lower abdomen. The doctor may need to remove the fallopian tube as well. If you’re bleeding heavily or your fallopian tube has ruptured, you might need a laparotomy, which requires a larger incision.

After an Ectopic Pregnancy

Women who have had an ectopic pregnancy can have a normal pregnancy, but it might be challenging, particularly if a fallopian tube has been damaged or has been removed. Consider reaching out to a fertility specialist for guidance.

Resources:

American Pregnancy: http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/ectopic-pregnancy/

Mayo Clinic: https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/ectopic-pregnancy/symptoms-causes/syc-20372088

WebMD: https://www.webmd.com/baby/pregnancy-ectopic-pregnancy

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