The happiest moment in a woman’s life is when she becomes pregnant. The feeling of a life growing inside her makes her ecstatic. She will take every precaution to carry the baby to a full term. However, many complications may arise during pregnancy. One serious complication is ectopic pregnancy.
It is shocking news for a mother-to-be when she comes to know that her pregnancy is ectopic, since this kind of pregnancy usually needs to be terminated. In an ectopic pregnancy, fertilized eggs are implanted outside the uterus. In 98% of these pregnancies, the egg is implanted in the fallopian tube. Implantation of the egg may also occur in the ovary, cervix, or the stomach. These type of pregnancies are called cervical or abdominal pregnancies.
Ectopic pregnancies are very risky. They do not lead to normal growth and delivery of the baby. As the embryo starts growing, there is very little space for it to grow. This may lead to tearing of the fallopian tube. This is known as ‘rupturing’. This causes bleeding, severe pain and at times, death of the mother. Fortunately, there are certain tests to detect ectopic pregnancies at an early stage.
Most of the time, the reasons for ectopic pregnancy are unknown, but certain factors may lead to increase in risks.
Fallopian Tube Problems
Fallopian tubes pick up eggs from the ovaries and transfer it to the womb. This transfer occurs by a series of muscle contractions. When fertilization occurs within the tube, the embryo is pushed inside the uterus by ‘squeeze and sweep’ movement of the fallopian tube. When an embryo is unable to work its way out to the uterus, it results in an ectopic pregnancy.
This may occur if the fallopian tube is blocked by an infection or inflammation. The common cause of infection is Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID). Intrauterine Contraceptives (IUD) may also result in an infection, which may lead to blockage of the fallopian tube. Endometriosis, a condition in which the uterine tissues grow outside the uterus, may cause damage to the fallopian tubes. This raises the risk of ectopic pregnancies.
Nicotine increases 5 times the risk of an ectopic pregnancy. It causes the fallopian tubes to contract. This may result in temporary spasms leading to its blockage. Therefore, it does not allow the passage of the embryo into the uterus.
Surgeries related to the reproductive system may increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. Tubal litigation is a contraceptive procedure, where the fallopian tubes are severed in order to prevent pregnancy. Reversal of tubal litigation may cause this type of pregnancy. This is because the surgery might have narrowed the tube at the place where it was joined. A woman who conceives after a surgery on the fallopian tubes, should see a doctor immediately for early diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy.
Fertility drugs like pergonal or clomiphene citrate and contraceptive medicinal hormones may lead to tubal pregnancy. These drugs alter the contraction and squeezing ability of the fallopian tubes. A woman should consult a doctor if she conceives while using these type of drugs.
The symptoms of normal pregnancy and ectopic pregnancy are very similar. The symptoms maybe nausea, missed periods and tenderness of the breasts. Sometimes, there may be no symptoms at all. After a week of missing periods, symptoms such as pain in the lower back and a slightly brown vaginal bleeding may be indications of ectopic pregnancy.
A visit to the doctor is mandatory if such symptoms are observed. If this condition is not treated early, it may worsen and result in severe pelvic pain, faintness due to loss of blood, nausea, vomiting, and low blood pressure.
Treatment for ectopic pregnancy depends on the woman’s health and the location of fertilization. Methotrexate injection is used in early stages of pregnancy to stop the growth of the embryo. If the pregnancy is in the advanced stage or the fallopian tube has been ruptured, surgery is a suitable option. The fallopian tube is removed if it is severely damaged, and the pregnancy terminated. If partial damage has occurred, the tissue is removed and the fallopian tube is left to heal.
Prompt treatment not only stops the fallopian tube from rupturing, but also saves the life of the mother. The mother has to undergo the trauma of losing the embryo, but she will be able to conceive in future. The sooner an ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed, the safer it is for a healthy reproductive life.