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Ectopic Pregnancy : Cause and Prevention
January 15, 2020
What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants and grows outside the main cavity of the uterus. Pregnancy begins with a fertilized egg. Normally, the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus.
An ectopic pregnancy most often occurs in a fallopian tube, which carries eggs from the ovaries to the uterus. This type of ectopic pregnancy is called a tubal pregnancy. Sometimes, an ectopic pregnancy occurs in other areas of the body, such as the ovary, abdominal cavity or the lower part of the uterus (cervix), which connects to the vagina.
If you have an ectopic pregnancy, you may have the same symptoms as for any early pregnancy at first, such as nausea, tiredness, and breast tenderness. Additional signs that the pregnancy is ectopic most often develop six to eight weeks after your last normal menstrual period but can occur throughout the first trimester. These symptoms include:
– Pain during intercourse
– Irregular vaginal bleeding or spotting
– Cramping or pain on one side, or in the lower abdomen
– Rapid heartbeat
If these symptoms are recognized, most often an ectopic pregnancy can be diagnosed before it ruptures. However, more than 50%2 of women do not have any of these symptoms before an ectopic pregnancy ruptures.
When an ectopic pregnancy causes a rupture, there are additional symptoms. Any of the following warrant an immediate visit to the emergency room:
– Sudden, severe abdominal or pelvic pain
– Dizziness or fainting
– Pain in the lower back
– Pain in the shoulders (due to leakage of blood into the abdomen affecting the diaphragm)
A tubal pregnancy — the most common type of ectopic pregnancy — happens when a fertilized egg gets stuck on its way to the uterus, often because the fallopian tube is damaged by inflammation or is misshapen. Hormonal imbalances or abnormal development of the fertilized egg also might play a role.
Some things that make you more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy are:
Previous ectopic pregnancy. If you’ve had this type of pregnancy before, you’re more likely to have another.
Inflammation or infection. Sexually transmitted infections, such as gonorrhea or chlamydia, can cause inflammation in the tubes and other nearby organs, and increase your risk of an ectopic pregnancy.
Fertility treatments. Some research suggests that women who have in vitro fertilization (IVF) or similar treatments are more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy. Infertility itself may also raise your risk.
Tubal surgery. Surgery to correct a closed or damaged fallopian tube can increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy.
Choice of birth control. The chance of getting pregnant while using an intrauterine device (IUD) is rare. However, if you do get pregnant with an IUD in place, it’s more likely to be ectopic. Tubal ligation, a permanent method of birth control commonly known as “having your tubes tied,” also raises your risk, if you become pregnant after this procedure.
Smoking. Cigarette smoking just before you get pregnant can increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy. The more you smoke, the greater the risk.
There’s no way to prevent an ectopic pregnancy, but here are some ways to decrease your risk:
– Limit your number of sexual partners.
– Always use a condom during sex to help prevent sexually transmitted infections and reduce your risk of pelvic inflammatory disease.
– Don’t smoke. If you do, quit before you try to get pregnant.
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