Ectopic is defined as “out of place.” An ectopic pregnancy is a fertilized egg that has planted itself outside the uterus. More than likely, eggs will land in the fallopian tubes but they can also travel into the ovaries, abdomen or cervix.
This type of pregnancy can be very dangerous for the mother and unborn child. When the fetus starts to develop in organs other than the uterus, the organ is stretched until it bursts, which causes severe bleeding. Normally, with ectopic pregnancies live birth does not occur.
Symptoms include the following:
Absence of menstrual pain
Vaginal bleeding or intermittent bleeding (spotting)
Dizziness or fainting (caused by blood loss)
Low blood pressure (cause by blood loss)
Lower back pain
Ectopic pregnancies can be difficult to determine because symptoms can mimic a normal pregnancy. This is why prenatal doctor visits are very important. If there are unusual signs, they may be identified in time.
Many women want to know what causes this or if they could have done something to prevent it. What is known is there are certain things that increase the risk of ectopic pregnancies.
Women who are 35 and older who have the following are at greater risk:
PID or pelvic inflammatory disease
A previous ectopic pregnancy
Surgery on a fallopian tube
Infertility problems or medication to stimulate ovulation
If you get pregnant while using the following birth control methods, the risk of ectopic pregnancy increases:
Progesterone-only oral contraceptives
Progesterone intrauterine devices (IUDs)
Your risk of ectopic pregnancy increases if you engage in the following:
Having multiple sexual partners
As far as what causes ectopic pregnancy, that varies. The fallopian tube may be infected or inflamed, which may cause the tube to be blocked in some way.
Pelvic inflammatory disease, endometriosis (cells normally found in the uterus that grow in another area) or scar tissue from previous surgeries may cause blockage as well. And, although rare, the blockage could be due to a birth defect of the woman -- an abnormal growth that has distorted the fallopian tube.
After an ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed, treatment will be determined based on your case. Treatment may mean an injection of methotrexate which aborts the growth of the fetus or it can mean surgery if the pregnancy is more advanced. Your doctor may have to remove or repair damaged organs. Afterwards, your doctor will want to see you on a regular basis till he or she is sure all the ectopic pregnancy is removed.
Ectopic Pregnancy. KidsHealth.org. Web. 26 September 2011.
Ectopic Pregnancy. MedicineNet.com. Web. 26 September 2011.
Dita Faulkner is a freelance writer who loves to blog. Check hers out at:
Reviewed September 28, 2011
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Malu Banuelos