As the egg prepares to make it's journey to the womb on it's monthly journey sometimes the unexpected happens, the journey is stopped by fertilization. Once the egg starts germinating and attaches to the wall next to it, it implants in the lining and prepares to begin life. This is the beginning of pregnancy. But outside of the womb, this process is called an ectopic pregnancy.
An ectopic pregnancy happens in the first few weeks of pregnancy. The egg can implant anywhere along the fallopian tubes and sometimes right next to the ovary. Ectopic pregnancies can be life threatening if left untreated, and as of right now, there's no medical procedure that can safely move an egg once it's implanted.
I will be honest I had never heard of an ectopic pregnancy until it happened to me. This specific pregnancy is not something that is often talked about in everyday conversation. But 1 in 50 pregnancies stays in a woman’s fallopian tube, this is known as an ectopic pregnancy. I used to think that the only thing I needed to worry about when I got pregnant was miscarrying.
10 What is an Ectopic Pregnancy
When you become pregnant, a fertilized egg implants itself in the lining of a woman’s uterus. With an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg implants itself somewhere else, not in the uterus. The most common place is in the fallopian tubes. But, implantation can also happen in the abdominal cavity or neck.
Unfortunately, this pregnancy cannot continue. The fertilized egg cannot survive and can destroy maternal structures. This type of pregnancy results in one of the following scenarios: both mother and child dying, the mother dying, or the child dying.
9 Early Symptoms of an Ectopic Pregnancy
In the beginning, an ectopic pregnancy can display the same symptoms as a normal pregnancy. Some woman will be nauseous, experience sore breasts and fatigue. An ectopic pregnancy will produce a positive pregnancy test and cause any woman to assume they are having a typical pregnancy. However, as the days go by, the ectopic pregnancy symptoms will appear.
One of the first is light vaginal bleeding that can be sporadic. This bleeding will be a brownish color and can be light or heavy and at first you may even mistake it for your period. Even with the bleeding you will still get a positive result on a pregnancy test.
Abdominal tenderness and pain can be light at the beginning, but become more painful as time passes. This can get worse when you are moving around, having a bowel movement or even coughing. This stomach pain can be felt on one side or even all over the abdominal region.
8 When to Seek Immediate Medical Attention
Shoulder pain is something you should never ignore during pregnancy. If you feel pain in your shoulder when you lie down, this can mean you have a ruptured ectopic pregnancy and need to seek medical attention immediately.
Internal bleeding aggravates the nerves that are outside the shoulder area. If your tube ruptures it's only a matter of time before other symptoms will be present, including: shock, racing pulse, clammy skin, dizziness and fainting. An ectopic pregnancy is considered a life threatening condition. Keep in mind is that sometimes you will have no symptoms until the tube ruptures.
That's why these types of pregnancies are so dangerous.
7 Diagnosing an Ectopic Pregnancy
This type pregnancy is difficult to diagnose. As a result, doctors will often start with blood tests to measure the pregnancy hormone, human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG). During the early stages of pregnancy, these hormone numbers will go from normal to double in the first few days and then may fall off dramatically. Which is why doctors will give women blood tests the first few days of pregnancy to check their HCG.
If a medical professional notices these numbers are not as high as they should be in the pregnancy it can show an ectopic or even a miscarriage. An ultra sound is a second way to diagnose an ectopic. The sonographer will look at your fallopian tubes and uterus. If they see an embryo in a tube, then it will confirm an ectopic pregnancy.
However, sometimes the embryo has already died, but the fallopian tube will look swollen with tissue and blood clots left from the embryo.
6 Less Invasive Treatment
How to treat an ectopic depends on many factors. If the embryo is small, a doctor may prescribe a drug called methotrexate. The drug is injected into a muscle which is released into the bloodstream. This drug will stop the cells of the placenta from growing.
Over time the embryo will be reabsorbed into your body. When taking this drug, a woman will experience cramps, vomiting, nausea and even diarrhea. With use of this drug, women need to avoid direct sunlight, rigorous activity, alcohol, ibuprofen, aspirin, multivitamins, naproxen, and folic acid.
Last but not least, a woman who's experienced an ectopic pregnancy cannot engage in sex. Over the next few weeks doctors will make the patient come in for weekly blood test to monitor her HCG levels. This will make sure the ectopic pregnancy is removed.
The second course of treatment is a surgery called laparoscopic surgery. If the embryo is small enough and the fallopian tube has not ruptured, this will be the best option. A doctor will insert a camera through the belly button into the fallopian tube. From there they will remove the embryo while preserving the fallopian tube.
However, it is important to know that if there is extensive damage to the tube or the woman has experienced a lot of bleeding, the tube may need to be completely removed. This surgery will require general anesthesia, special equipment and a surgeon who is able to perform the techniques needed.
Afterward, the patient will need about a week of rest for recuperation. If the fallopian tube ruptures and/or there's extensive bleeding or scar tissue, than abdominal surgery will be necessary. The recovery time will be about six weeks and she will experience bloating and abdominal pain.
4 Feelings of Loss
An ectopic pregnancy can be a devastating experience. You have just lost a pregnancy and the idea or trying again may be terrifying. Some doctors suggest waiting at least three months or longer if the woman has had an abdominal surgery.
Be warned, getting pregnant right away can lead to another ectopic. After such an experience it is essential to allow yourself the time to heal physically and emotionally before trying to get pregnant again. Your partner may be feeling sad and helpless. So it is necessary to communicate your feelings to each other or seek the help of a licensed professional.
It's normal to feel the loss of your baby, but rest assured there was no way you could save this pregnancy and nothing you could have done differently.
3 Risk Factors
What women should know first is that an ectopic can happen to any woman. A common factor is having any surgery that has affected the fallopian tubes such as tubal ligation. There is even a small chance for women who've had pelvic or abdominal surgery to experience an ectopic pregnancy. An earlier ectopic also increases your changes to 1 and 10 according to BabyCenter.
Multiple sexual partners can make more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy as well. The more partners a woman has increases her chances of a sexual transmitted disease, which can lead to an ectopic pregnancy.
Infertility can also result in an ectopic when women are seeking treatment. Women whose mother took the drug, Diethylstilbestrol or DES (it has been banned in the United States since 1971) while pregnant can cause their daughters to be more susceptible to having ectopic pregnancies later in life.
Endometriosis can result in scarring on the fallopian tubes and result in an ectopic pregnancy as well. Smoking can also increase a woman's chances of having an embryo implant in a tube.
2 Fertility After an Ectopic Pregnancy
Most women who suffered from an ectopic pregnancy can have a successful pregnancy afterward. The earlier an ectopic pregnancy is detected, the better the chances for a healthy pregnancy later on. Women who lose one of their fallopian tubes can still become pregnant as long as their other tube is normal.
But if an ectopic pregnancy is the outcome of a tubal ligation, infection, or DES exposure, than there is a greater chance that the other fallopian tube is damaged and will result in another ectopic pregnancy. Do not be discouraged if this happens to you. There are other ways to get pregnant, but they won’t be as much fun.
In vitro fertilization is the best way to conceive without a healthy functioning fallopian tubes. While the process of IVF can be intimidating for any person, the major benefit is that women don't need to depend o their fallopian tubes at all. Which means there is a zero percent chance of having another ectopic pregnancy.
This route might seem overwhelming at first. Seeing specialists and having to go through all of the testing to see what is the best alternative can be pretty demanding on anyone's body. While this can be an emotional roller coaster, the thing to remember is that IVF may be the best chance for a healthy baby. So it may be worth looking into.
An ectopic pregnancy can be a mentally and physically exhausting experience. There is no right or wrong way to deal with this situation. Regardless of the outcome of an ectopic pregnancy, losing a tube or finding out both of your tubes are damaged, rest assured in the knowledge that you will one day have a baby.