Early symptoms of ectopic pregnancy
The early symptoms of ectopic pregnancy are difficult to detect because they often mimic the signs of a normal pregnancy. Therefore, we should establish first the difference between the two types of pregnancy. In a normal pregnancy the fertilized egg implants to the lining of the uterus, while in an ectopic pregnancy it attaches itself somewhere out of the uterus, usually one of the fallopian tubes that convey eggs to the uterus from the ovaries. Though this is what makes it known as a tubal pregnancy, it can also take place in the abdominal cavity, ovary, or cervix.
The early signs of ectopic pregnancy (including those that resemble a normal pregnancy) include:
· Missed period.
· Breast tenderness.
· Vaginal spotting.
· Dizziness or fainting resulting from loss of blood.
· Low blood pressure also from blood loss.
· Lower back pain.
· Shoulder pain.
· Urge to have a bowel movement.
An ectopic pregnancy is so outwardly similar to a normal pregnancy that a pregnancy test will even yield a positive result. However, such a pregnancy simply cannot proceed as it normally would. Not only will the fertilized egg be not able to survive, but the growing tissue can potentially destroy several maternal structures. If the early symptoms of ectopic pregnancy are ignored, the condition could progress into serious abdominal or pelvic pain with vaginal bleeding, and severe lightheadedness or fainting, symptoms which warrant emergency medical care. The loss of blood alone can be lethal if not promptly treated. A blocked fallopian tube through which an egg can’t reach the uterus can be caused by:
· Pelvic inflammatory disease.
· Scar tissue from previous abdominal or fallopian surgeries.
· Birth defects.
· Abnormal growths.
· Hormonal balances.
Even though the cause of ectopic pregnancy remains unknown in many cases, there are certain risk factors that prospective mothers should keep an eye out for:
· Previous ectopic pregnancies.
· Infections caused by gonorrhea or chlamydia.
· Fertility problems.
· A misshaped fallopian tube.
· Certain contraceptive methods.
Pregnancies seldom occur when using an intrauterine device or after a tubal ligation procedure, but in the rare cases when they do they are more likely to be ectopic. In light of the above, the best way to prevent, or at least reduce the risk of ectopic pregnancy is to take measures such as:
· Limiting number of sex partners.
· Using a condom during sex.
· Telling your doctor if you’re planning to have a child after having already had an ectopic pregnancy.
The purpose of these measures is to decrease the of sexually transmitted infection and pelvic inflammatory disease, and also to alert your doctor so that he/she monitors your condition and performs blood tests and ultrasound imaging to track the progress of pregnancy, whether normal or ectopic.
The treatment for this condition consists of removing the ectopic tissue, but may vary depending on how advanced the pregnancy is. If an ectopic pregnancy diagnosis is made early, the patient may be given a methotrexate injection to stop growth and dissolve cells. It’s possible that a patient experiences the early symptoms of ectopic pregnancy without being aware that she may be pregnant. In that case, urine and blood tests, and ultrasound may be used to determine whether there is a pregnancy as soon as possible. On the other hand, if the pregnancy is more obvious and farther along, a surgical procedure may be required; either a laparoscopy or a laparatomy, as the case may be.
Treatment can save the life of a pregnant woman but not that of her unborn child, and this loss may be overwhelming, especially if the pregnancy was planned and desired. While there may be solace in the fact that many ectopic pregnancy patients can and do go on to have normal pregnancies, it should also be taken into account that the risk of having another ectopic pregnancy is increased by 15%.