Ectopic Pregnancy. Am I at risk?
- What is an ectopic pregnancy?
- What are the symtpoms of ectopic pregnancy?
- What are the risks for ectopic pregnancy?
- How is ectopic pregnancy diagnosed?
- What medication is used to treat ectopic pregnancy?
- When and how is medication used to treat ectopic pregnancy?
- When and how is surgery used to treat ectopic pregnancy?
- What happens if an ectopic pregnancy continues to develop?
- What risks or side effects occur with ectopic pregnancy surgery?
- How will I feel after treatment?
- What can I expect emotionally?
- Can an ectopic pregnancy affect any future pregnancies?
What is an ectopic pregnancy?
A tubal, or ectopic, pregnancy is when the embryo implants itself outside the uterine cavity. The majority of ectopic pregnancies are implanted in the fallopian tubes but it can also be implanted in the cervix, ovaries and other surrounding tissues.
When and how is surgery used to treat ectopic pregnancy?
If the ectopic pregnancy has ruptured a fallopian tube then emergency surgery will be needed. Surgery will need to be performed even if the fallopian tube has not ruptured. The ectopic pregnancy can be removed from the tube, or the entire tube with the pregnancy can be removed, every pregnancy is different.
Surgery typically is done with laparoscopy. This is done with an instrument called a laparoscope (or sometimes other instruments) and is inserted into the pelvic cavity through a small incision.
What are the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy?
Ectopic pregnancies can may feel like a normal pregnancy showing signs of a missed period, tender breasts, or an upset stomach. Other signs may include any or multiple of the following:
- Abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Pain in the lower back area
- Abdomen or pelvis pain
- Pelvic cramping
Abnormal bleeding and pelvic pain should always be communicated to your OB/GYN specialist for further evaluation.
What if an ectopic pregnancy continues to develop?
If an ectopic pregnancy is unknown and continues to grow, more serious symptoms may develop as the pregnancy progresses, particularly if a fallopian tube ruptures. A ruptured fallopian tube can cause life-threatening internal bleeding. If you have sudden, severe pain; shoulder pain; or weakness, you should go to an emergency room or our GYN Emergent Care Center immediately. Symptoms may include:
- Sudden, severe abdomen or pelvis pain
- Shoulder pain
What are the risks for an ectopic pregnancy?
The risk factors for ectopic pregnancy include the following:
- Previous ectopic pregnancy
Are there any risks or side effects to an ectopic pregnancy surgery?
Your OB/GYN Specialist will talk with you about the possible side effects and risks of surgery for ectopic pregnancy.
These risks may include any or all of the following:
How is ectopic pregnancy diagnosed?
If there are no symptoms of a fallopian tube rupture but your OB/GYN suspects you may have ectopic pregnancy, they may perform the following:
- Pelvic exam
- HCG test
How will I feel after treatment?
Whether you were treated with medication or surgery, you may feel tired for several weeks while you recover. You may feel abdominal discomfort or pain. Speak with your OB/GYN Specialist if you have pain that does not respond to over-the-counter medication.
It can take time for the level of hCG in your body to drop after treatment for an ectopic pregnancy. You may continue to feel pregnant for a while. It may take a few cycles for your periods to return to normal.
What medication is used to treat ectopic pregnancy?
Methotrexate is the most common medication used to treat an ectopic pregnancy. This drug stops cells from growing, which ends the pregnancy. The pregnancy then is absorbed by the body over 4–6 weeks. This does not require the removal of the fallopian tube.
How will I feel emotionally?
Ectopic pregnancy can be traumatic for some women, especially those who are trying or struggling to become pregnant. Many emotions may flow through after an ectopic pregnancy, even if it wasn’t a planned pregnancy. Take time to work through your feelings, see a counselor, talk to your friends or family for emotional support. Your OB/GYN will be able to refer to a counselor, if needed. Online forums also can be a place to get support from other women who have had ectopic pregnancies.
When and how is medication used to treat ectopic pregnancy?
Several factors go into the decision to use medication for treatment. One of the most important factors is your ability to follow up with blood tests that check your blood levels of hCG. You will not be able to use methotrexate if you are breastfeeding or have certain health problems.
Methotrexate often is given by injection in one dose. Before you take methotrexate, blood tests will be done to measure the level of hCG and the functions of certain organs. If hCG levels have not decreased enough after the first dose, another dose of methotrexate may be recommended. You will have careful follow-up over time until hCG is no longer found in your blood.
Can an ectopic pregnancy affect future pregnancies?
Once an ectopic pregnancy has occurred, there is a higher risk of having another one in the future. If you become pregnant, be alert for the symptoms and signs of an ectopic pregnancy. Your OB/GYN will exam you and confirm that your pregnancy is developing normally.
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