21 Jun Ectopic Pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancies take place when a fertilized egg implants somewhere outside of the uterus. In 90% of cases, the fetus attaches in the fallopian tubes, although it can wind up attaching in other uterine/reproductive tissue. While rare, ectopic pregnancies are very serious. The only treatment available is halting the growth of the developing fetus via medication or surgery, and to date, there is no way to transplant a fetus into the uterus.
Since 90% of ectopic pregnancies take place in the fallopian tube, these pregnancies have tragic outcomes. If left too long without diagnoses, the fetus will eventually grow big enough that the fallopian tube ruptures, causing internal bleeding. It can be life-threatening if the pregnancy progresses to this point, and it always requires surgery.
Do you have any of the risk factors for ectopic pregnancy?
While only about one in 50 pregnancies is ectopic, some women are more prone to experiencing one than others. The following circumstances put women at higher risk:
- Smoking (and recent studies show that having a partner who smokes cigarettes also puts you at higher risk)
- Higher maternal age (35+ years)
- Having an ectopic pregnancy in the past
- Tubal blocks or scarring from current/prior STI’s or PID
- Scarring from previous pelvic surgery or trauma
- A history of miscarriages
- A history of infertility
- Getting pregnant via IVF
Ectopic pregnancy symptoms & treatment
At first, an ectopic pregnancy feels like any other early pregnancy – a skipped period, breast tenderness, and perhaps nausea or upset of morning sickness.
As the fetus grows, the symptoms include:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Mild pain, tenderness or discomfort in the abdomen
- Mild cramping or pain on a single side of your abdomen
- Lower back pain
The first symptoms can be very mild at first, but that is why you should always report any pelvic or abdominal pain/discomfort or spotting/bleeding to your OB/GYN or fertility specialist.
At this point, your ectopic pregnancy is treatable via medication (usually methotrexate) that ceases the growth of the fetus, allowing the body to reabsorb it. It takes about four- to six weeks for your body to absorb the pregnancy. While emotionally devastating, this less-invasive treatment method is non-infasive and easier on your body.
If the ectopic pregnancy progresses, symptoms rapidly escalate to the point of fallopian tube rupture. Symptoms of late-stage ectopic pregnancy are:
- Sudden, severe pain in the pelvis/abdomen
- Dizziness, weakness or fainting
- Pain in the shoulder
These symptoms occur during and after the rupture and require surgical intervention. Otherwise, the mother risks internal hemorrhaging.
Your infertility diagnosis or history of IVF could make you vulnerable
Unfortunately, women with a history of infertility, and those who get pregnant via IVF are in the group of women with a higher risk of ectopic pregnancy. This is one reason why women pursuing IVF are monitored so carefully.
In the case that you do have an ectopic pregnancy, early detection is key to treating it early so we can get you back on your way to a successful fertility treatment outcome.
The fertility experts and staff here at the Fertility Center of Dallas are wholly dedicated to providing the most positive and healthy pregnancy outcomes for all of our patients. Schedule a consultation with us, and we promise to take meticulous care of you every step of the way.