An ectopic pregnancy, or eccysis, occurs when a fertilized egg implants itself and grows outside the uterus as opposed to inside. Ectopic pregnancy typically occurs in the mother’s Fallopian tube. In rare cases, ectopic pregnancy may develop in the mother’s abdomen, ovary, or cervix. Ectopic pregnancy typically results in miscarriage as it is difficult for the fetus to survive outside the uterus.
Types of Ectopic Pregnancy
Tubal pregnancy occurs in the Fallopian tube. It accounts for roughly 98% of all of ectopic pregnancy cases. Non tubal ectopic pregnancy occurs in the abdomen, ovary, or cervix. Heterotopic pregnancy is a rare form of ectopic pregnancy during which there are two fertilized eggs. During a heterotopic pregnancy, one fertilized egg is implanted inside the uterus (intrauterine) and the other outside (extra uterine). The mortality rate is roughly 90% to 95% for the extra uterine fetus and roughly 35% for the intrauterine fetus.
Risk Factors of Ectopic Pregnancy
Risk factors for ectopic pregnancy include:
- Previous ectopic pregnancy
- Previous Fallopian tube operations
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Intrauterine device (IUD) usage
- Sexually transmitted infections (STIs), such as chlamydia
- Pregnancy despite tubal ligation, or “tying” of the Fallopian tubes
- Exposure to diethylstilbestrol (DES), or synthetic estrogen, while in the womb
- Endometriosis, or the appearance of uterine cells outside the uterus
- Fertility drugs or assisted reproductive treatment (ART), such as in vitro fertilization
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms of ectopic pregnancy may involve:
- Abdominal pain
- Lower back, stomach, or pelvic pain
- Cramping or tenderness on one side of the pelvis
- Pain during urination
- Pain during bowel movements
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
Diagnosis and Treatment
If a woman with a positive pregnancy test experiences vaginal bleeding or abdominal pain, the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy should be investigated. A medical professional should perform a pelvic exam, blood tests, and an abdominal or vaginal ultrasound if needed. If symptoms are not addressed adequately and in a timely manner, an ectopic pregnancy can go unnoticed until internal damage occurs.
Treatment should begin immediately after diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy. Treatment depends on the severity and stage of an ectopic pregnancy. In early stages, a drug called methotrexate may be administered. Methotrexate stops the pregnancy growth and the woman’s body typically absorbs or vaginally passes the pregnancy. If the ectopic pregnancy is larger, surgery may be needed to remove the embryo before internal damage occurs to the mother.
Complications of Ectopic Pregnancy
An ectopic pregnancy can grow into a potential medical emergency. The condition can be fatal if left undiagnosed, misdiagnosed, or improperly treated. An ectopic pregnancy can often be misdiagnosed. Ectopic pregnancy exhibits symptoms of other medical conditions. These conditions include appendicitis or other gastrointestinal disorders, urinary system conditions, and pelvic inflammatory disease.
A large ectopic pregnancy in the Fallopian tube can cause the tube to rupture. Fallopian tube rupture often occurs six to eight weeks after conception. This can cause severe internal hemorrhaging and a drastic drop in blood pressure that can lead to shock. In addition, an untreated ectopic pregnancy can lead to organ damage. In some cases, the Fallopian tube must be partially or fully removed. The woman may then lose the ability to bear children in the future.
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McQueen, Anne. “Ectopic pregnancy: risk factors, diagnostic procedures and treatment.” Nursing Standad. 25.37 (2011): 49+. Academic OneFile.Web. 10 Dec. 2012.
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