An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants outside the cavity of the womb, usually in the fallopian tube. As the pregnancy progresses, the fallopian tube stretches and if not treated ,tube can even burst, causing internal bleeding, which can lead to collapse and even death.
Normally a fertilized egg travels from the ovary, passes the fallopian tube and implants into the wall of the womb. In an ectopic pregnancy the egg does not travel to the uterus or womb but instead implants somewhere outside the womb, usually in one of the narrow fallopian tubes where it cannot develop properly. In most cases the exact cause of an ectopic pregnancy is unknown but it is often a result of some sort of damage to the fallopian tube. The tube may have become blocked or narrowed by previous surgery or infection. In ectopic pregnancy one should look out for-a missed or late period, positive urine pregnancy test, abdominal pain , shoulder tip pain, abnormal bleeding, diarrhea, fainting, or feeling dizzy or light headed.
Risk factors for Ectopic Pregnancy
- Aged between 25 and 34 years old
- History of pelvic inflammatory disease, such as Chlamydia
- Previous abdominal surgery, such as removal of the appendix
- Taking the progesterone-only contraceptive pill (mini pill)
- IVF treatment
- Previous ectopic pregnancy
Diagnosing an Ectopic pregnancy
Testing for ectopic pregnancy is actually difficult, because the answers are not always clear cut. Ultrasound is frequently used, along with the transvaginal ultrasound scan, which provides a better view of the womb, ovaries and fallopian tubes. However it is not always possible to see an ectopic pregnancy on scan. One may have to opt for blood tests (serial βhCG) over a 48-hour period to help with the diagnosis.
Treatment Options for Ectopic pregnancy
- Keyhole surgery to remove the damaged fallopian tube and the ectopic pregnancy at the same time. This is called a laparoscopy.
- Injection of Methotrexate. This is a drug that stops the ectopic from growing under careful monitoring.
- If ectopic is small enough one may need to undergo several ultrasound scans to watch the pregnancy carefully as it comes to an end by itself.