In a normal pregnancy, your ovary releases an egg into your fallopian tube. If the egg meets a sperm, the fertilized egg moves into your uterus to attach to its lining and continues to grow for the next 9 months. But in 1 of 50 pregnancies, the fertilized egg stays in the fallopian tube. This is called an ectopic pregnancy or a tubal pregnancy. This happens most often in the first few weeks of pregnancy. You may not even know you’re pregnant yet, so it can be a big shock to many women. Doctors typically discover it by the 8th week of pregnancy. In ectopic pregnancies, women will often experience the following symptoms:
-Light vaginal bleeding
-Nausea and vomiting with pain
-Lower abdominal pain
-Sharp abdominal pain
-Pain on one side of your body
-Dizziness or weakness
-Pain in your shoulder, neck, or rectum
-If the fallopian tube ruptures, the pain and bleeding could be severe enough to cause fainting
If you experience the symptoms above, contact your health care provider immediately and go to the emergency room. This is vital in helping to reduce the risk of hemorrhaging (severe bleeding) and to preserve the mother’s fertility. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, ectopic pregnancies are life threatening. The pregnancy cannot continue to birth (term) and the developing cells must be removed to save the mother’s life.
There are several things that may cause an ectopic pregnancy including:
–Birth defect in the fallopian tubes
-Scarring after a ruptured appendix
-Having had a previous ectopic pregnancy
-Scarring from past infections or surgery of the female organs
The following also increases your risk:
-Being over the age of 35
-Getting pregnant while having an intrauterine device (IUD)
-Having your tubes tied (tubal ligation): this is more likely 2 or more years after the procedure
-Having had surgery to untie tubes (tubal sterilization) to become pregnant
-Having had many sexual partners
-Some infertility treatments
Sometimes the cause is unknown. Hormones may play a role. The most common site of an ectopic pregnancy is in one of the fallopian tubed, but in rare cases, it can also occur in the ovary, abdomen, or cervix. It can even occur when you’re using birth control.
Knapp & Roberts recently took on a case where a woman was incorrectly diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy. She was given the drug Methotrexate (a drug used to terminate the pregnancy). When doctors finally found out the pregnancy was actually normal and not ectopic, it was too late. Sadly, our client lost her baby. We do not share this to scare women, but rather to educate women going through a similar experience. For more information on ectopic pregnancies, visit the American Pregnancy Association.
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