September 22, 2020 | By: Laura Stevenson
A loss of a pregnancy can be devastating. Especially when you are forced with a life and death decision. Miscarriages or chemical pregnancies are very common. Mainly caused by the fetal embryo not being able to thrive. Although much less common, ectopic pregnancy is no different. Usually diagnosed 6 weeks or more in the 1st trimester of the pregnancy.
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg attaches itself somewhere other than inside the uterus. The most common area for this to occur is in the fallopian tube. It can occur in other areas of the body as well.
- 95% are in the Fallopian tube – Ampullary (middle portion of the Fallopian tube), Isthmic (upper portion of the Fallopian tube close to the uterus), or Fimbrial (end of the Fallopian tube)
- 3% are Interstitial (inside portion of the Fallopian tube that crosses into the uterus)
- < 1% are within a Caesarean section scar of the uterus
- < 1% are Cervical (on the Cervix area)
- < 1% are Cornual (occurs within an abnormally shaped uterus)
- < 1% are Ovarian (inside of or on the ovary)
- < 1% are Intramural / Peritoneal (in the muscle tissue of the womb)
- < 1% are Abdominal (in the tissue of the abdomen)
- < 1% are Heterotopic pregnancies (ectopic pregnancy and another pregnancy simultaneously exist)
Ectopic pregnancies are dangerous to the mother and fetus. There is no way to move the embryo to the proper place and reattach to the uterus safely. The fetus very rarely survives longer than 6-16 weeks because tissues outside the uterus do not provide the necessary blood supply and structural support to promote placental growth, and circulation to the developing fetus.
This results in a decision to terminate the pregnancy when diagnosed. Without medical intervention, areas of the Fallopian tube for instance, can rupture damaging that part of the body, causing medical complications to the mothers such as damage to the fallopian tube / hair like silica, Hypovolemic shock (Blood loss of 20% of your body that can cause organ failure), and in rare cases death.
How do I know if I'm having an ectopic pregnancy?
Many of the early signs will be the same as a normal thriving pregnancy.
According to Mayo Clinic: Your specific symptoms depend on where the blood collects and which nerves are irritated. Commonly occurring in 6-8 weeks from your missed period.
Seek emergency medical care if you have signs and symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy:
- Severe abdominal or pelvic cramps accompanied by vaginal bleeding
- Pain mimicking an appendicitis on the lower right side
- Extreme lightheadedness, weakness or fainting
- Shoulder pain – a sign that blood may be leaking from the source of the ectopic pregnancy
- Pain in the neck or rectum
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Breast pain / tenderness
How is ectopic pregnancy diagnosed?
Diagnosis can come from an ectopic medical pelvic exam, an ultrasound, a Doppler, or a serum hCG blood test (a result of < 2,000 IU/L treated as an ectopic pregnancy).
What causes ectopic pregnancies to occur?
Ectopic pregnancies most often occur due to previous damage to the fallopian tube.
Reasons for an ectopic pregnancy can include having Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), IUD’s over 35 years old, having an STD, certain surgeries – like tubal ligation, infertility, D&C – damages to endometrial lining, endometriosis, smoking, IVF treatment, taking fertility medication, or having a previous ectopic pregnancy.
Please know whatever the reason, an ectopic pregnancy is not likely to survive. Knowing the signs & symptoms can be a matter of life & death of the mother.
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