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All About Ectopic Pregnancy

Lakshmi Devan
3 min read

All About Ectopic Pregnancy

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The worst part about ectopic pregnancies is that most cases don’t get diagnosed on time, posing a threat to pregnant women, and resulting in the termination of the pregnancy.

Up to 1 in 50 pregnancies is terminated in the first trimester due to it being ectopic. The word ‘ectopic’ is derived from the Greek ektopis, meaning displacement, or out-of-place. Now, from that itself one could infer that there has to be something out-of-place about a pregnancy for it to be called ectopic, right?

What is an ectopic pregnancy?

Well, in this case, the foetus itself is displaced. Allow me to explain.

Your ovary releases an egg into your fallopian tube, right? If this egg meets with a sperm, the fertilised egg moves into your uterus to attach to its lining, and continues to grow for the next 9 months. However, sometimes the fertilised egg stays in your fallopian tube, and this is what is called ectopic pregnancy, or more specifically – tubal pregnancy.

In rare cases, the fertilised egg attaches to one of your ovaries, or the cornua (or horn) of the uterus, or even the cervix. Ectopic pregnancies require emergency treatment, most often surgery, lest it causes internal bleeding and hypovolemic shock.    

Am I at risk?

Ectopic pregnancy risk factors apply to women who are:

  • Individuals with pelvic inflammatory disease, often due to chlamydia.
  • Women who smoke.
  • Those who have had prior tubal surgery.
  • Those with a history of infertility.
  • Women who have had previous ectopic pregnancy incidents.
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Statistics suggest that the occurrence of this condition in technologically assisted pregnancies are more. Cruel, isn’t it? The foetus is unable to survive, and requires abortion in most cases, barring rare exceptions.

Wonder stories
  • In July 1999, Lori Dalton gave birth by caesarean section in Utah, United States, to a healthy baby girl who had developed outside of the uterus. Previous ultrasounds had not discovered the problem and during the operation, the doctors found the baby in an amniotic sac, outside the womb. The baby came out doing extremely well, because even though it had been implanted outside the womb, a rich blood supply from a uterine fibroid along the outer uterus wall had nourished it.
  • In the same year, Jane Ingram, a 32-year-old, gave birth to triplets – two normal foetuses inside the womb, and the third one planted below the womb. All three were in good health, and the babies inside the womb were taken out first.
But believe me when I say that these were some very lucky ladies, since such deliveries make 0.01 per cent of all cases, 99.99 per cent meeting their fated abortion.

There is another problem with ectopic pregnancies – they usually don’t get detected until at least 7 weeks, posing a threat to the expectant mother’s life in the meantime, in case it were to cause a rupture of the fallopian tubes or any other structure that the foetus is attached to. Ectopic pregnancy symptoms are often confused with normal pregnancy symptoms – like cramps and light spotting, the pain described as anything between crampy and sharp, shooting pain.

Nausea and breast soreness are common symptoms in both ectopic and uterine pregnancies. But the following symptoms are more common in an ectopic pregnancy and should be considered a medical emergency:
  • Sharp waves of pain in the abdomen, pelvis, shoulder, or neck (the pain is known to move to the areas other than the abdomen only when internal bleeding has occurred).
  • Severe pain that occurs on one side of the abdomen.
  • Light to heavy vaginal spotting or bleeding.
  • Dizziness or fainting.
  • Rectal pressure.
Even though Indian medical statistics are unavailable, according to American Pregnancy Association, if you’ve already been through an ectopic pregnancy, there are 60 per cent chances of having a normal pregnancy in the future, if the fallopian tubes are intact. In case they are scarred during surgery, a possible solution could be in-vitro fertilisation, in which the fertilised egg is planted directly in the womb. There are multiple other solutions that your doctor will be able to tell you about better – after considering your medical history. Even though the loss of a baby can be devastating, the key is to stay positive and optimistic.

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