Ectopic Pregnancy: All About This Life-Threatening Condition

Julie Ryan Evans
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Flickr Photo by normanack
What do you know about ectopic pregnancies?

Unless you've experienced one yourself, you may not know a lot. Even after two pregnancies, I didn't really know much until I read about a woman in England who recently jumped out of an airplane to raise awareness about ectopic pregnancies.

But all women should know about this potentially life-threatening condition.

The rate of ectopic pregnancies has increased in recent years -- from 1/200 pregnancies in 1970 to 1/50 in 1990; and, there are things you can do to lower your risk of experiencing one.

So what exactly is an ectopic pregnancy?

Dr John Couvaras of IVF Phoenix describes it like this: " ... any pregnancy that occurs outside of the uterine cavity.  The word ectopic means, ‘out of place'. This most commonly occurs in the fallopian tubes, but can be in the passage way leading to the tube, or in the cervix, or in the abdominal space."

 What are the symptoms?

Symptoms vary and include vaginal spotting and uterine cramping. Some women experience no pain, while for others it's severe; but in all cases, the pregnancy can't be saved.  

What is the treatment?

Medication is able to resolve an ectopic pregnancy in 90 percent of cases; the remainder will need surgery, according to Dr. Couvaras.

Could you be at risk for an ectopic pregnancy?

Dr. Sarah D. Fox, director of colposcopy, director of chronic pelvic pain, Women & Infants Hospital of Rhode Island, says that women who have had previous ectopic pregnancies, surgery on their fallopian tubes or pelvic infections (pelvic inflammatory disease and chlamydia and gonorrhea infections) are at higher risk of an ectopic pregnancy.

"Also, women who have multiple sexual partners may be at higher risk," she said. "The only thing that can be done to prevent an ectopic is to avoid having a sexually transmitted infection. Women should practice safe sex, use condoms and limit the number of partners."  

Have you ever experienced an ectopic pregnancy?

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