How Dangerous is an Ectopic Pregnancy?
An ectopic pregnancy is a medical condition that occurs in less than 2% of pregnancies in North America. Left unattended, an ectopic pregnancy is a serious medical condition and can be fatal. For women, it is important to know what an ectopic pregnancy is, what symptoms you may experience, what the treatment options are, and how an ectopic pregnancy may effect you emotionally.
What is An Ectopic pregnancy?
An ectopic pregnancy is one that is growing in the wrong place. While normally the baby grows inside the uterus or womb, an ectopic pregnancy can be in the fallopian tube (where the egg and sperm meet), ovary, cervix, or the abdominal cavity (belly). Ectopic pregnancies in the fallopian tube are much more common than in other locations and are known also as tubal pregnancy.
What are the Symptoms of an Ectopic Pregnancy?
You MAY have a tubal pregnancy if you are pregnant AND have one or more of the following:
- Severe pain centered on one side of the abdomen or pelvis
- Lightheadedness, dizziness, or blackouts
- Abnormally low blood pressure
- The passage of tissue (not just blood clots) from your vagina, as in the case of miscarriage
- Bleeding from the vagina may or may not be present
Is There A Test That Confirms that I’m Having an Ectopic Pregnancy?
The doctor may perform several tests to help confirm an ectopic pregnancy since many of the symptoms can be confusing. You may have blood tests to determine quantitative hCG levels, and another pregnancy test. You may also have a pelvic exam. Tubal pregnancy may be confirmed by an ultrasound showing a baby outside the womb or showing no baby in the womb despite a large numberhCG of pregnancy hormones in your blood. Direct observation of the fallopian tube during surgery may be necessary to make the diagnosis.
What Could Cause an Ectopic Pregnancy? Am I at Risk?
In most cases, the cause of tubal pregnancy is not known and there is nothing you could have done to prevent it. However, a woman is more likely to have a tubal pregnancy if she:
- Has had a previous ectopic pregnancy
- Has had an infection of the fallopian tubes or certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as gonorrhea or chlamydia
- Has had a pelvic infection
- Gets pregnant while an IUD is inside her uterus
- Has had a tubal ligation
What Factors Probably DO NOT Cause an Ectopic Pregnancy?
You may be surprised to learn that these factors do not cause tubal pregnancy:
- Emotional stress
- Birth control pills taken accidentally in early pregnancy
- Work environments and duties
Tubal Pregnancies are Medical Emergencies
If you suspect you may have a tubal pregnancy you should get medical treatment immediately from a physician or to the emergency room of a nearby hospital. A tubal pregnancy is a medical emergency. Failure to get help may allow rapid bleeding into your abdomen from a ruptured internal organ, causing an occasional patient to die from shock (dangerously low blood pressure). At Collage, if you come in for an ultrasound and our sonographer should uncover an ectopic pregnancy, we would advise and assist you with getting medical treatment right away. We provide clients with information and paperwork for you to take immediately to the hospital or ER.
What Treatment is provided for Ectopic Pregnancies?
Typically tubal pregnancy is either proved or ruled out by the tests mentioned above. A fertilized egg can’t survive outside the womb, and can’t be put back inside it. In order to protect the woman’s life, the pregnancy must be terminated and sometimes the fallopian tubes need to be removed through surgery. With early detection of tubal pregnancies, termination of the pregnancy through administering medication is often the treatment and this allows the body to absorb the tissue, with no surgery. Once an ectopic pregnancy is confirmed, you should be informed that pregnancy termination is the only option for survival due to the physical dangers.
Emotions and Feelings After an Ectopic Pregnancy
It’s helpful for you to understand that you may experience a wide range of physical changes and emotions. At Collage, we understand that you may even feel relieved to no longer be pregnant. On the other hand, you may feel guilty or have a sense of loss, even if your pregnancy was unexpected. These are all normal feelings even if you were unsure of whether you planned to carry your baby to term or not. It may be beneficial for you to talk to someone in order to sort out these feelings. We can offer emotional support to you and those close to you if you need to come in. Feel free to call and set up an appointment. We’ll be here for you.