Pregnancy is super overwhelming to say the least. Trying to become pregnant, being pregnant, childbirth, a newborn…the list goes on and on. Sometimes it can be downright scary with all of the new vocabulary thrown out at you, and a lot of times when you look up the words they are more frightening and less “the joys of motherhood.” Knowledge is truly power, though, and there are great resources to help support you and keep you in the loop throughout your pregnancy. One of these scary terms that you may hear mentioned or may experience first hand is ectopic pregnancy. Here are nine questions and answers to keep you in the know when it comes to ectopic pregnancy.
1. What is an ectopic pregnancy?
An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg grows outside of the uterus (90% of the time this occurs in the fallopian tubes). As the pregnancy continues, the tube could rupture and cause major internal bleeding.
2. Can an ectopic pregnancy grow in places other than the fallopian tubes?
Yes, while 90% of ectopic pregnancies happen when the egg develops in the fallopian tubes, ectopic pregnancies can also grow in your ovaries, cervix, or abdominal cavity, although these are much more rare.
3. How common are ectopic pregnancies?
Ectopic pregnancies only make up about 2% of all pregnancies that occur. So they are not common at all.
4. Can I still have a baby with an ectopic pregnancy?
No, unfortunately the fertilized egg in an ectopic pregnancy is not viable–-meaning the fertilized egg is not capable of surviving or growing successfully anywhere outside of the uterus. It will be impossible for the egg to grow into a baby that could live in or outside of your body.
5. What are the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy?
Early on, an ectopic pregnancy will feel very similar to a normal pregnancy, and when you take a pregnancy test, it will still come out positive, despite the pregnancy being outside of the uterus; however, other symptoms will develop as the egg grows, such as:
- Tummy pain low down on one side or pelvic pain
- Vaginal bleeding or a brown watery discharge
- Pain in the tip of your shoulder
- Discomfort when peeing or having a bowel movement
It is important to note that the pain can vary depending on where the blood is pooling. When I first read that you could have shoulder pain, I was like who wrote this article for the NHS? Those Brits need to proofread! Apparently, though, the internal bleeding in the abdomen can irritate a nerve that connects to your diaphragm and shoulder area, so a seemingly unconnected issue like that could be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy.
6. How can I know for sure if I have an ectopic pregnancy?
A transvaginal ultrasound will be conducted, which will allow your doctor to see the exact location of the fertilized egg. They may also do an abdominal ultrasound to confirm your pregnancy or evaluate for internal bleeding.
7. What do I do if I have an ectopic pregnancy?
To prevent life-threatening complications, the ectopic tissue needs to be removed. Depending on your symptoms and when the ectopic pregnancy is discovered, this may be done using medication, laparoscopic surgery or abdominal surgery.
An early ectopic pregnancy without unstable bleeding is most often treated with a medication called methotrexate, which stops cell growth and dissolves existing cells. The medication is given by injection.
Salpingostomy and salpingectomy are two laparoscopic surgeries used to treat some ectopic pregnancies. In these procedures, a small incision is made in the abdomen, near or in the navel. Next, your doctor uses a thin tube equipped with a camera lens and light (laparoscope) to view the tubal area.
If the ectopic pregnancy is causing heavy bleeding, you might need emergency surgery. This can be done laparoscopically or through an abdominal incision (laparotomy). In some cases the fallopian tube can be saved, but if rupturing has occurred it most likely will need to be removed.
8. What if I do nothing about an ectopic pregnancy?
If left untreated, there will not be room for the egg to grow, causing the fallopian tube to rupture and lead to life-threatening bleeding.
9. Can I prevent an ectopic pregnancy?
There’s nothing you can do to 100% prevent an ectopic pregnancy from occurring; however, according to The Cleveland Clinic there are certain risk factors that may increase the chances of it happening in your body. These include:
- Previous ectopic pregnancy. If you’ve had this type of pregnancy before, you’re more likely to have another.
- Inflammation or infection. Sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia, can cause inflammation in the tubes and other nearby organs, and increase your risk of an ectopic pregnancy.
- Fertility treatments. Some research suggests that women who have in vitro fertilization (IVF) or similar treatments are more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy. Infertility itself may also raise your risk.
- Tubal surgery. Surgery to correct a closed or damaged fallopian tube can increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy.
- Choice of birth control. The chance of getting pregnant while using an intrauterine device (IUD) is rare. However, if you do get pregnant with an IUD in place, it’s more likely to be ectopic. Tubal ligation, a permanent method of birth control commonly known as “having your tubes tied,” also raises your risk, if you become pregnant after this procedure.
- Smoking. Cigarette smoking just before you get pregnant can increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy. The more you smoke, the greater the risk.
10. Will I have another ectopic pregnancy if I already had one?
The simple answer is that your chances are higher for you to have another ectopic pregnancy if you’ve already had one, but that does not mean you absolutely will. You most definitely can become pregnant and deliver a happy and healthy baby after an ectopic pregnancy, so don’t lose hope!
One of the most important things to do during any pregnancy is to make regular appointments with your OB. Making sure that you’re visiting regularly with your doctor will ensure that an ectopic pregnancy is caught early on and major complications can be prevented.
While the idea of an ectopic pregnancy may feel scary, remember that it’s important to be educated on the potentials of pregnancy, but not paranoid. Pay attention to your body, trust your instincts, and ensure you have a doctor you are comfortable with and trust to listen to your concerns. Staying safe and healthy yourself is just as important as carrying a baby to full term, so always keep your wellbeing as a priority, and remember that, like many other pregnancy complications, an ectopic pregnancy does not mean you cannot have another normal and healthy pregnancy.
For more great information on pregnancies go to babycubby.com.