What You Need to Know About Ectopic Pregnancy

While ectopic pregnancies are rare, they are serious. It’s important to know the warning signs and be prepared in the case of an emergency medical situation.

What is an ectopic pregnancy?

Ectopic pregnancy is when a pregnancy grows outside of your uterus. In a normal healthy pregnancy, the fertilized egg attaches itself to the lining of the uterus. In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg grows outside the uterus, most often in the fallopian tubes. This is also known as a tubal pregnancy. A fertilized egg cannot grow normally in the fallopian tubes or areas other than the uterus. The growing tissue can put pressure on surrounding organs, potentially causing a rupture leading to large internal bleeding that life-threatening.

Generally speaking, ectopic pregnancies are rare affecting about 2 out of every 100 pregnancies. While rare, they can pose a serious risk and should be treated with care.

What can cause an ectopic pregnancy?

You may be more likely to experience an ectopic pregnancy if you have one of the following risk factors:
· experienced a previous ectopic pregnancy
· had pelvic or abdominal surgery
· are 35 years of age or older
· smoke cigarettes
· have endometriosis
· have pelvic inflammatory disease
· have experienced certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs) such as chlamydia or gonorrhea

In rare cases, women who have had a tubal ligation (sterilization) procedure or who have an IUD can become pregnant and experience an ectopic pregnancy. Again, this is uncommon, affecting only an estimated 2 out of 10,000 women with a hormonal IUD, 5 out of 10,000 women with a copper IUD or about 7 out of 1,000 women who have undergone tubal ligation.

That said, it’s possible to experience an ectopic pregnancy even if you don’t have any known risk factors. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the warning signs and symptoms.

What are the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy?

In the early stages, you may experience symptoms of a typical pregnancy including a missed period, breast tenderness, or an upset stomach. If you have a positive pregnancy test with bleeding, it’s important to contact your Axia Women’s Health provider.

If a fertilized egg continues to grow, it can potentially cause the fallopian tube to rupture which can lead to major internal bleeding. This is a serious and potentially life-threatening emergency. If you experience any of the following signs or symptoms, you should contact your Axia Women’s Health provider immediately:
· extreme lightheadedness or fainting
· sudden and severe abdominal or pelvic pain along with vaginal bleeding
· shoulder pain

How is an ectopic pregnancy treated?

There are two ways to treat an ectopic pregnancy including medication or surgery.
If caught in an early stage, an ectopic pregnancy can be treated with a medication called methotrexate. Methotrexate works by stopping cells from growing. The ectopic pregnancy “dissolves” and is reabsorbed naturally into the body. Not all patients are a candidate for methotrexate. Your provider will help determine if is right for you.

If the ectopic pregnancy is caught at a later stage, surgery is often required. This type of procedure is known as laparoscopy. A skilled physician uses a small lighted camera to make incisions in the abdomen and then removes either the ectopic pregnancy from the fallopian tube or in some cases, the entire fallopian tube. In rare instances, a laparotomy (abdominal operation) may be required.

Seeking Support After Ectopic Pregnancy

Experiencing an ectopic pregnancy can be traumatizing both physically and emotionally. Feelings of anger, sadness, anxiety, and depression are all normal. You may have nightmares or flashbacks of the experience. If you’re struggling emotionally, it’s important to seek help from friends, family, a support group, or a licensed mental health professional.

Organizations like the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust and Share Pregnancy & Infant Loss Support offer online education, resources, and grief support. There are also many local support groups you can find in your region.

What’s important to remember above all is that you’re not alone. Confide in your friends and family, and seek support from your Axia Women’s Health provider and those around you.


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