WHAT IS ECTOPIC PREGNANCY
Ectopic pregnancy is pregnancy outsied the uterine cavity. Normally, at the
beginning of a pregnancy, the fertilized egg travels from the fallopian tube
to the uterus, where it implants and grows. In about 2% of pregnancies, however,
the fertilized egg attaches to an area outside of the uterus, which results
in an ectopic pregnancy, this also known as a tubal pregnancy or an extrauterine
An ectopic pregnancy is usually caused by conditions which slows down or obstructs
the movement of the egg down the fallopian tube into the uterus. Any condition
which may have damaged the fallopian tubes increases the risk of a tubal pregnancy.
The possible causes of ectopic pregnancies include:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease - an infection of the female reproductive organs
which can cause scarring of the organs.
- A history of Endometriosis - a disease where tissue usually found in the
uterus develops in other areas of the body.
- Previous tubal surgery
- Multiple induced abortions
- Pelvic adhesions - bands of scar tissue that constrict the tube
Nearly all ectopic pregnancies develop in a fallopian tube; the rest occur
in an ovary, the cervix, or the abdomen.2 An ectopic pregnancy cannot support
the life of a fetus for very long. If left untreated, a tubal ectopic pregnancy
can cause fallopian tube damage and life-threatening blood loss. Therefore,
unless the pregnancy is miscarrying on its own, medicine is used to stop the
pregnancy from growing, or surgery is used to remove it.
Sign and Symptoms of Ectopic Pregnancy
The symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy include:
- Abdominal pain, which can be sudden and sharp and remain
continuously or seem to come and go. The pain can be stronger at some times
than at others.
- Shoulder pain may occur as blood from the area where the
tube has ruptured builds up in the abdomen under the diaphragm.
- Vaginal bleeding can be scant or heavy; it can last for
days or come and go for weeks.
Other symptoms can include weakness, headache, dizziness, or generally not
feeling well. It is very important that you call your doctor if there is any
unusual pain or bleeding, even if you do not think there really is a problem.
If an ectopic pregnancy is left untreated, it will rupture, causing internal
Diagnosing of Ectopic Pregnancy
Diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy can be difficult, as many of the symptoms can
be confusing. The doctor may perform some tests that will help confirm a suspected
- Pelvic exam: This is an examination of the internal pelvic
structures during which the doctor looks for signs of pregnancy, abnormal
masses, or unusual pain.
- Blood tests: These determine red and white blood cell counts,
as well as determine pregnancy.
- Ultrasound: This procedure allows the doctor to see inside
the woman's body. The ultrasound machine uses short bursts of sound. The sound
waves bounce off internal organs and are converted into an image on a television-like
screen. The image is then examined to see if the pregnancy has implanted in
the uterus, tube or elsewhere in the pelvic area.
- Culdocentesis: This is a test that is done at the time
of the pelvic exam to determine the presence of blood in a space behind the
uterus called the "cul-de-sac."
- Laparoscopy: This test is done in an operating room with
anesthesia. A small incision is made in the woman's abdomen, and a special
light-transmitting telescope is inserted through it, enabling the doctor to
see the fallopian tubes and surrounding pelvic organs.
Treatment of Ectopic Pregnancy
Treatment options for ectopic pregnancy include observation, laparoscopy, laparotomy,
and medication. Selection of these options is individualized. Some ectopic pregnancies
will resolve on their own without the need for any intervention, while others
will need urgent surgery due to life-threatening bleeding.
For those who require intervention, the most common treatment is surgery. Two
surgical options are available; laparotomy and laparoscopy. Laparotomy is an
open procedure whereby a transverse (bikini) incision is made across the lower
abdomen. Laparoscopy involves inserting viewing instruments into the pelvis
through tiny incisions in the skin. For many surgeons and patients, laparoscopy
is preferred over laparotomy because of the tiny incisions used and the speedy
recovery afterwards. Under optimal conditions, a small incision can be made
in the fallopian tube and the ectopic pregnancy removed, leaving the fallopian
tube intact. However, certain conditions make laparoscopy less effective or
unavailable as an alternative. These include massive pelvic scar tissue and
excessive blood in the abdomen or pelvis. In some instances, the location or
extent of damage may require removal of a portion of the fallopian tube, the
entire tube, the ovary, and even the uterus.
Recently, considerable effort has focused on treating ectopic pregnancies without
surgery. Some patients can be monitored by their symptoms and blood levels of
beta HCG hormone without surgical intervention. Changes in the hormone levels
can signal a spontaneous resolution of the pregnancy. This approach requires
very close communication with the health care provider so that should problems
occur, intervention can be prompt. Another treatment method involves the use
of an anti-cancer drug called methotrexate. This drug acts by killing the growing
cells of the placenta, thereby inducing miscarriage of the ectopic pregnancy.
Some patients may not respond to methotrexate, and will require surgical treatment.
Methotrexate is gaining popularity because of its high success rate and low
rate of side effects.
Even some problem for woman for giving birth by cesarean section to live infants
that were located outside the uterus, but the change of carrying an ectopic
pregnancy to full term is so small, and also the risk for the woman so big,
that's why it can not be recommended.