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What You Need to Know about Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancies occur in 1 out of every 50 pregnancies, making them more common than we are comfortable with. They present a high-risk situation to the mother because they can cause permanent damage to her reproductive tract if the ectopic pregnancy is missed or isn’t treated soon enough. 

Ectopic Pregnancies Defined 

In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg attaches outside of the uterine lining. In most cases, it implants into one of the fallopian tubes, called an ectopic tubal pregnancy, accounting for 90% of ectopic pregnancies. Developing embryos (zygotes) have also been found attached to other organs in the pelvic or abdominal cavity, but it is much less common. 

Unfortunately, there is no way for an ectopic pregnancy to go full-term. In a healthy pregnancy, fertilized eggs are meant to travel through the fallopian tube, into the uterus, and implant into the thick, nourishing lining of the uterus. Without that lining, the zygote cannot grow and develop for very long; however, they do continue to grow and develop for a little while. When this happens in the narrow fallopian tube, it poses a severe threat to the mother.  

According to The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG), “A ruptured ectopic pregnancy can cause major internal bleeding. This can be a life-threatening emergency that needs immediate surgery.” It also means the loss of a functioning fallopian tube. Because it is so serious, an ectopic pregnancy is considered a medical emergency. 

Risk Factors & Symptoms 

There are two critical steps fertile women should take to ensure quick treatment for ectopic pregnancy: know the risk factors and the symptoms. 

Risk factors 

Women are more likely to experience an ectopic pregnancy if they have  experienced: 

Other risk factors include: 

Symptoms 

While all of these factors increase the chances of ectopic pregnancy, it can happen to anyone. Nearly 50% of all women who experience an ectopic pregnancy don’t have risk factors. 

Seek immediate medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms and there is even the slightest risk you might be pregnant. 

It is true that some of the symptoms are rather general in nature and not uncommon; however, physicians and medical professionals would much rather have you call or come in to verify nothing is wrong than assume nothing is wrong and not get the treatment you need. 

Treatment for Ectopic Pregnancies 

The most common treatment for ectopic pregnancy, before tube rupture, is a prescription medication called methotrexate. This medication stops the egg from growing anymore, and the body absorbs the fertilized egg. As a result, there is no harm to the fallopian tube other than any damage or scarring the fertilized egg may have caused. 

If the egg has grown too much and the tube is acutely threatened, or the tube ruptures, we repair the damage surgically. This often requires removing the tube. 

Can I Get Pregnant with One Tube? 

Experiencing an ectopic pregnancy is devastating for a woman because it is also a miscarriage. If a woman loses one of her fallopian tubes due to an ectopic pregnancy, she may worry she will have a hard time getting pregnant again. The good news is that most women can absolutely get pregnant with one tube.  

Have you had an ectopic pregnancy in the past? Are you trying to get pregnant with only one fallopian tube? Visit Premier OB/GYN and begin working with a team that goes the extra mile to provide personalized care to each one of our patients. 

Author
Valerie Ramsay, CNM Valerie Ramsay, CNM, is a board-certified nurse midwife at Premier Obstetrics and Gynecology in Maitland and Oviedo, Florida. She is proud to empower women and encourage them to be active participants in their own healthcare. She is extremely excited to be a part of the Premier OB-GYN family. Valerie graduated from Valencia College in Orlando with her associate degree in nursing, where she earned an award for the highest overall GPA. Valerie then pursued her bachelor’s degree in nursing from Polk State College in Winter Haven, Florida, where she earned cum laude honors. She received her master’s degree in nurse-midwifery from the University of Cincinnati in Ohio in 2019. Valerie has worked as a nurse in the obstetric field for the past 15 years and considers it her passion and personal calling. She chose to pursue midwifery because she felt a deep passion to care for women and their families. Valerie is happily married and is the proud mother of two beautiful children, Paige and Jacob.

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