An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg latches outside the
uterus, for example to a fallopian tube wall, the ovary, or other organs
instead of the inside wall of the uterus. When the egg begins to divide, the space soon runs out and the ectopic pregnancy is either self aborted or the pregnant mother must seek medical attention to treat the condition.
Main Causes of Ectopic Pregnancy
Ectoptic pregnancy occurs in about 1% of the population. The major cause of these ectopic pregnancies is damage to the cilia inside the fallopian tube. The fallopian tube is not smooth on the inside, like a straw. It is lined with tiny hairs that work to move the egg toward the uterus. Blockages in the tube or damage to the cilia can increase the overall risk of ectopic pregnancy.
Other causes can include the age of the mother when becoming pregnant, history of pelvic inflammatory disease, history of previous tubal ligation (reversed), previous ectopic pregnancy, history of abortion, in-vitro fertilization and ovulation induction.
Symptoms of Ectopic Pregnancy
There are only three ways the ectopic pregnancy will be realized. The first is the most abrupt. If the woman suddenly feels ill and needs to be rushed to the hospital, they will run a pregnancy test and diagnose the ectopic pregnancy.
The second is early detection. In women who have a history of ectopic pregnancy, when trying to become pregnant or missing a period, they often test for pregnancy and if the test is positive will see an Ob / Gyn for a scan to determine if the pregnancy is viable or ectopic.
The third is the most common presentation of ectopic pregnancy. The woman misses her menstrual cycle and she tests positive for pregnancy. After the positive test, there could be pain in the abdomen to one side of the body or the other. This is pain coming from the fallopian tube. There could be a bit of bleeding, but when the pain is reported, the Ob / Gyn will most often perform an ultrasound and find the ectopic pregnancy.
Testing for an Ectopic Pregnancy
If the pregnancy makes it to the 5th week, there is a chance that a vaginal ultrasound can rule out the uterine pregnancy. If the pregnancy test is positive but the ultrasound does not show an attached fetus, further testing will be done.
The hCg test, which proves pregnancy and established how far along the pregnancy is, will often signal the ectopic pregnancy as well. With a normal uterine pregnancy, the hCg levels will double every 48 to 72 hours. In the ectopic pregnancy, the hCg level will not rise that quickly and may stop rising all together.
The laparoscopy can also be used to visualize the ectopic pregnancy. This procedure is not done as often as other procedures due to the side effects of the anesthesia and the cost of the procedure.
Many ectopic pregnancies are realized before the fallopian tube ruptures, but this is not always the case. If the tube erupts, there will be surgical intervention and the tube may be removed.