In a normal pregnancy, the fertilized egg moves down into the uterus where it connects with the uterus lining. However, in certain instances, the fertilized egg is implanted outside of the uterus. The most common point of connection in an ectopic pregnancy is in the fallopian tubes and this is sometimes termed a ‘tubal’ pregnancy. However, in certain instances the ectopic pregnancy takes place in the abdominal cavity or in the cervix. Such a pregnancy does not allow for the survival of the fertilized egg and if it is left untreated, the woman may be left in a life-threatening position owing to massive blood loss. However, if an ectopic pregnancy is treated early on, it is still possible to have subsequent, healthy pregnancies.
Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy
Initially, an ectopic pregnancy can occur without the pregnant woman even knowing she has conceived yet. At most, she will have experienced early pregnancy symptoms such as a missed period, morning sickness or sensitive breasts. A pregnancy test would show a positive result since hormonal changes would continue as normal, however, the pregnancy will not be able to continue.
For many women, the first indicator of an ectopic pregnancy, or any pregnancy whatsoever is pain in the pelvic area and light bleeding. If bleeding is heavy, this could be the result of a cervical pregnancy. Blood may leak from the fallopian tubes causing a continuous feeling of being ready for bowel movement or causing shoulder pain. However, if the fallopian tube is severely damaged, heavy bleeding ensues accompanied by light-headedness, fainting and symptoms of shock.
You should see a doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms and if you experience severe pain, heavy bleeding or fainting spells you should go for emergency medical treatment immediately.
Causes of ectopic pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancies may be caused by inflammation of the fallopian tubes. If the tubes are damaged or there is any constriction, this could be the cause of the problem. Hormonal imbalances may also play a role in ectopic pregnancy. However, in many cases there is no apparent physiological reason for an ectopic pregnancy.
Potential risk factors
Approximately 2% of pregnancies are ectopic pregnancies. Certain conditions can make the risk of ectopic pregnancy higher.
- Women who have experienced an ectopic pregnancy are more likely to have other ectopic pregnancies.
- Infections affecting the uterus, fallopian tubes or ovaries increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy.
- Women who struggle to become pregnant have a greater chance of ectopic pregnancies, particularly when using certain fertility drugs.
- Damage, for example surgical damage to the fallopian tubes can cause ectopic pregnancies.
- If you are using an intra-uterine device as a means of contraception, your chances of conception are low. However, should you fall pregnant whilst using an IUD, the pregnancy is likely to be ectopic.
What you should do
If you experience pain, bleeding and dizziness, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. If bleeding is heavy, you may be hospitalized. Although this sound intimidating it is absolutely necessary that you go for medical treatment for the sake of your own survival as well as your reproductive health.
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