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Ectopic Pregnancy

When an embryo starts to develop outside the uterus, it's called an ectopic pregnancy. Most often, this happens in one of the fallopian tubes, so an ectopic pregnancy is sometimes also known as a tubal pregnancy.


Some women find out they have an ectopic pregnancy during a prenatal checkup early in the pregnancy. Others may have sudden symptoms that require emergency care.


Because ectopic pregnancy can turn into a serious condition, it's important to know the symptoms. If you have an ectopic pregnancy, your OB GYN can guide you through treatment and support as you recover.



Risk factors for ectopic pregnancy


Ectopic pregnancy often happens when a fertilized egg gets stuck in the fallopian tube. You're more at risk if you have damage to your fallopian tubes due to a condition present at birth or a previous surgery like getting your tubes tied. Conditions like endometriosis, pelvic infections, or a ruptured appendix can affect your fallopian tubes too.


The U.S. Library of Medicine says other risk factors include:

  • Being over 35
  • Having an IUD when you get pregnant
  • Smoking
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Having multiple sex partners
  • Some types of infertility treatments



Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy


At first, you may only have mild symptoms that are typical for an early pregnancy. These include missing your period, nausea or vomiting, breast tenderness, and fatigue. During an ectopic pregnancy, your body still produces pregnancy hormones that are detected on a home pregnancy test.


As the pregnancy progresses, you may start to have other symptoms like cramping, pain in your lower back, or abnormal bleeding. These are all signs of ectopic pregnancy, as well as other pregnancy complications. If you have any of them, call your OB GYN.


Finally, if your ectopic pregnancy isn't caught early, there's a risk if could rupture. This can be life-threatening and needs immediate care. The American Academy of Family Physicians says to seek help right away if you may be pregnant and have:

  • Weakness, dizziness, or fainting
  • Severe pain in your abdomen or pelvis that happens suddenly
  • Pain in your shoulders



Treatment options


An ectopic pregnancy can't be saved or moved to your uterus. As a result, you'll need treatment. If it's found early, your OB GYN can give you medication to stop the cells from growing. Then, your body will naturally absorb them.


However, if your ectopic pregnancy has grown too large or your fallopian tube ruptures, it's likely you'll need surgery. Your doctor may remove only the pregnancy tissue, or you may need your entire fallopian tube removed.


The March of Dimes says you'll also need to follow up with your OB GYN after an ectopic pregnancy to check your hCG (pregnancy hormone) levels. After a few weeks, they should go back to zero.



Support after an ectopic pregnancy


Whether you were planning to have a baby or not, the loss of a pregnancy brings many emotions. It's okay to seek support as you cope with these feelings. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends you talk with a counselor or get connected with an online support group.


Especially if you had a fallopian tube removed, you may wonder how this affects your future ability to have a baby. It is possible to get pregnant and have a healthy, full-term pregnancy after an ectopic pregnancy and fallopian tube surgery.


However, you should be aware that you have a higher risk of having another ectopic pregnancy. If this is a concern, talk with your OB GYN. He or she can help guide you on the best approach to your fertility and care during any future pregnancies.


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