8 Things to Know About Ectopic Pregnancies

Adriana Velez Health Check

ectopic pregnancyIt's a term that sends chills down women's spines: Ectopic pregnancy. Potentially life-threatening, often painful, and impossible to carry to term, a terrible accident of biology, this is one pregnancy no woman hopes for. But they're also a little bit mysterious. What are they exactly? How do you know if you have one? And what are your options if an ectopic pregnancy happens to you? Here's what you need to know.

1. What is an ectopic pregnancy? Quite simply, it's when a fertilized egg implants itself outside the womb. This could be in a Fallopian tube or in the neck of the uterus.

2. What happens if it's untreated? As the fertilized egg grows, it can damage the mother's other organs. It can cause enough bleeding to cause death. The fertilized egg will not survive.

3. How do you know if you have an ectopic pregnancy? An ectopic pregnancy can be detected early if you have an ultrasound soon after getting a positive pregnancy test -- but not always! It can be difficult to spot an ectopic pregnancy in the early months of pregnancy. Other signs include severe abdominal pain, vaginal bleeding, lightheadedness, and fainting.

4. What are your options? Once an ectopic pregnancy is discovered, it should be treated as soon as possible. If it's early enough, this can be done through an injection that stops the growth of and dissolves the fertilized egg. Otherwise, the egg is removed via laprascopic surgery. If the pregnancy has already ruptured or damaged a tube, you will need emergency surgery. Sometimes a damaged tube can be repaired, but more often it will have to be removed.

5. What causes an ectopic pregnancy? Inflamed or damaged tubes or uterus, fertility treatments, infections, and hormonal irregularities are all factors that can lead to an ectopic pregnancy. In extremely rare cases, an ectopic pregnancy can result when women conceive while using birth control like the pill or an IUD.

6. Who is at risk of an ectopic pregnancy? Women with a history of endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease, women who have already had another ectopic pregnancy or tubal surgery, and smokers.

7. How common are ectopic pregnancies? Here is the good news: They are very rare; just 1 to 2.5 percent of pregnancies are ectopic.

8. Can you have a baby after surviving an ectopic pregnancy? It depends, but if the removal of the pregnancy has left everything intact, you should still be able to carry a baby. Having one less Fallopian tube will make conceiving more difficult, of course. You are also now at risk for having another ectopic pregnancy. Talk with your doctor to find out if you can -- or even should -- get pregnant again.

One of the most important rules of pregnancy is to call your doctor if anything feels wrong. There are many unfamiliar sensations that come with pregnancy, including aches and pains. Most of the time, what you're feeling is PERFECTLY NORMAL -- so don't worry. Keep talking with your doctor, letting them know what's going on just in case.

Have you ever had an ectopic pregnancy? Do you know anyone who has?

 

Image via JOHN BAVOSI/Science Photo Library/Corbis

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complications, pregnancy health