As we all know pregnancy isn't always a simple science and can come with risks and complications. Ectopic Pregnancy is something that we very limited control over avoiding, as there is no preventable cause of this type of pregnancy. I was lucky that my first pregnancy was 'normal', healthy and fairly uncomplicated. So when we started trying to conceive for our second child, I assumed it would be much the same. Unfortunately, my second pregnancy was quite the opposite and I ended up in hospital very unwell and in emergency surgery, as we discovered the pregnancy was ectopic.
What is Ectopic Pregnancy?
An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that develops outside of the female's uterus - usually in one of the fallopian tubes. In most cases the embryo can not survive as the blood supply and space inside the fallopian tube is limited. In a small percentage of cases, the fertilised egg positions itself to the cervical wall, ovary or abdominal cavities - however this is very rare. If left in the tube, rupture can occur which is a medical emergency and must not be ignored. Internal bleeding, infection, shock and severe pain results of this internal rupture and need urgent medical assistance and surgery.
Symptoms can vary from woman to woman. For me, I had period-like bleeding & cramping which lead me to believe I was having a normal monthly period. This continued for 2-3 days. It was when the bleeding became very heavy and inconsistent, and teamed with severe pains down low on my left side that made me realise my symptoms were not typical. Several work colleagues commented on how pale I was and asked if I was feeling ok. As the day progressed and I was unable to stand up straight due to the crippling pain, I realised all was not well. I left work at midday and took myself to the emergency ward. Lucky I did, because on arrival I fainted.
Other symptoms can be:
- sometimes an ectopic pregnancy can begin like a normal pregnancy with the same typical pregnancy symptoms (a positive pregnancy test, nausea, a missed period, tender breasts)
- stomach cramping
- lower back pain
- pelvic pain
- feeling light headed
- vaginal bleeding or spotting
- severe sudden pain
Diagnosis of an Ectopic Pregnancy:
Diagnosis usually occurs because symptoms are severe (and usually when the fallopian tube has ruptured) and the female has sought medical assistance. A diagnosis is made through all or either of these procedures:
- blood tests
- ultrasound (external and/or internal)
- keyhole surgery (laparoscopic)
- pelvic examination
Risks and Treatments:
An ectopic pregnancy can not be ignored. Once the fallopian tube has ruptured, urgent surgery (and sometimes a blood transfusion) is needed. The surgery is done through small incisions (I had 3 - one on each side of my lower pelvis and one into my belly button) called laparoscopic surgery. The embryo is removed and all attempts are made to repair the fallopian tube. If it can not be repaired the tube is removed or left disconnected. This is an overwhelming experience for a female - especially those who wish to have more children in the future. Take peace in knowing that in most cases; you can still have future pregnancies even with only one working tube remaining.
I fell pregnant again 6 months later and had a lot of early tests to ensure that this pregnancy was in the uterus and growing at a steady rate. Nine months later I gave birth to a thriving, healthy baby boy.
If you have had an ectopic pregnancy, your risk of having another is higher. So, ensure you talk to your doctors and health care providers about this so they can monitor your pregnancy/future pregnancies carefully.
Call 000, go to a hospital or talk to your doctor/obstetrician if you have any severe symptoms or concerns. Talk to Dr Chong about all of your pregnancy needs.
Causes & Preventions:
There is no one reason why an ectopic pregnancy occurs, and not one way to prevent them from occurring. You can however, strive to keep your reproductive system in good health through a good nutritious diet, sufficient sleep and an active healthy lifestyle. Ensure you get regular pap smears and pelvic/cervical check ups and always prevent and quickly treat any sexually transmitted diseases or infections (STD's / STI's)
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