Knowing what causes ectopic pregnancies and the different treatment options available is key to both your physical and reproductive health.
For many expectant mothers, pregnancy can be a time of tremendous excitement and expectation. Expectant mothers spend time organizing their homes and preparing nurseries while they wait for their bundle of joy to arrive. Simply taking in the whole experience can make pregnancy one of life’s greatest experiences. Having a baby signals a sea of change in the life of a parent.
While having a baby is as natural as breathing air, no two pregnancies are the same. Most women will have a smooth pregnancy, while others may experience what is known as an ectopic pregnancy.
Pregnancy: The Basics
Reproduction is a universal experience of all living organisms on Earth. What differs from species to species is how those offspring are produced. For humans, conception occurs through sexual intercourse when sperm meets and fertilizes an egg. Your body prepares for this fertilization by releasing one of your eggs into the fallopian tubes for 24 hours at a certain point in your menstrual cycle. After the egg is fertilized, it remains in the fallopian tubes for up to four days before finally moving into the uterus. Here, the egg implants itself into the uterine wall where it grows until delivery.
What Causes Ectopic Pregnancy
In rare instances, the fertilized egg fails to move into the uterus and instead remains in the fallopian tubes. This is called an ectopic pregnancy, and it occurs in 1-2% of all births in developed countries. It is considered to be the most common cause of fetal death during the first trimester, accounting for nearly 10% of all miscarriages. There are several potential causes of ectopic pregnancies, including:
- damaged fallopian tubes
- sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
- scarring from prior surgeries
Many women experiencing an ectopic pregnancy have no symptoms, or may have symptoms similar to a typical pregnancy. Symptoms may include:
Treatment for Ectopic Pregnancy
A fertilized egg can only survive within the uterus, so it will need to be removed from the fallopian tubes to avoid future complications. Once a physician has diagnosed an ectopic pregnancy, they will prescribe treatment methods to ensure the safety of the mother which will vary depending on what stage of pregnancy the woman is in at discovery. One of the most common methods of treatment is an oral dose of a medication called methotrexate, which stops the cells of the fertilized egg from growing and causes them to reabsorb naturally into the body.
In later stages of pregnancy, surgery may be required. Your physician may recommend a laparoscopy, which is a minimally invasive procedure involving a small incision in the lower abdomen. A laparoscope is inserted into the incision and the egg is removed.
Fortunately, both treatment methods have good clinical outcomes. Many patients are able to begin trying to conceive in as little as three months after treatment for an ectopic pregnancy.
If you have questions or concerns about ectopic pregnancy, The Woman’s Clinic is here to help. For additional information about diagnosis and treatment, contact us today at (501) 664-4131 or request an appointment to see one of our experienced doctors.