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Definition

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a normal fertilized egg implants anywhere other than the main space of the uterus. Generally, the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus.

An ectopic pregnancy most often happens in one of the fallopian tubes that carry the fertilized eggs from the ovaries to the uterus and this condition is called a tubal pregnancy. In some cases though, an ectopic pregnancy occurs in the abdominal cavity, ovary or cervix.

Symptoms

If any or all of the below mentioned symptoms are experienced, the patient is advised to see the doctor immediately:

  • Mild vaginal bleeding
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lower abdominal pain
  • Prickly abdominal cramps
  • Body ache
  • Giddiness or weakness
  • Shoulder, neck, or rectum pain
  • Rupture of the fallopian tube can cause severe pain and bleeding leading to fainting

Risk Factors

It is projected that 20 in every 1000 pregnancies are ectopic. Various causes linked with ectopic pregnancy include:

  • Earlier instances of ectopic pregnancy
  • Inflammation of the fallopian tube or infection of the uterus caused by gonorrhea or chlamydia
  • Use of fertility drugs
  • Structural issues
  • Pregnancy that occurs when using an intrauterine device (IUD)
  • Active smoking

Diagnosis

A pelvic examination is conducted by the doctor to assess the pain or mass in the fallopian tube or ovary followed by a transvaginal ultrasound and blood tests.

Treatment

A fertilized egg can't grow normally outside the uterus. To avert critical complications, the ectopic tissue has to be removed. If detected early, an injection of the drug methotrexate is injected to stop the cell growth and dissolve the existing cells. In other cases, ectopic pregnancy is treated with a laparoscopic surgery unless it is causes heavy bleeding wherein a laparotomy (surgery through an abdominal incision) is performed and if the fallopian tubes are found extensively damaged, they may have to be removed. The HCG levels are monitored post surgery to be sure of removal of all the tissues.

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