An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a developing fetus attaches itself to a woman's fallopian tubes, ovaries, or pelvis region. These pregnancies can not survive. They must be removed by surgical means or a pregnancy-ending injection. Left untreated, these pregnancies can rupture and risk the life of the mother. What causes these types of pregnancies? What are the most common symptoms?
Ectopic pregnancies (also known as tubals) occurring in the fallopian tubes are caused by an obstruction or blockage in the tube. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease(PID) is the most common culprit. PID is a serious infection which can severely damage the fallopian tubes, uterus, and upper reproductive area. It is most frequently preceded by untreated sexually-transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia and Gonorrhea.
Tubal ligation reversal or the tubal ligation process itself can also raise the risk of future ectopic pregnancy. This often occurs when a woman becomes pregnant and scarring hampers the fetus' ability to reach the uterus.
Some women with Endometriosis, congenital tube abnormalities, or infertility problems also increase their chance of contracting a tubal pregnancy. Endometriosis describes the condition where the cells lining the uterus detach and attach themselves to other parts of the body. The In vitro fertilization process causes some tubal pregnancies and a situation known as heterotopy, where a normal pregnancy occurs in the uterus while an ectopic develops elsewhere.
Women with previous ectopics increase the possibility of additional ectopics by 15 percent or more. Pregnant women with a history of this condition should keep in close contact with their doctor while conceiving. Here are the most common symptoms associated with an ectopic pregnancy. Women may suffer from some, all, or none of these symptoms:
- Missed period
- Known pregnancy with spotting or bleeding
- Dizziness or fainting
- Severe abdominal pain on one side
Ectopic pregnancy rates have increased exponentially over the last few decades. In many cases, it can be prevented by responsible sexual behavior and early treatment of STD's. A doctor's advice is always recommended for pregnant women, especially those with the increased risk factors discussed earlier.