Ectopic pregnancy is an unknown but still common experience. In fact, ectopic pregnancy occurs in about 2% of pregnancies each year in the United States alone. This adds up to around 12,000 American women, and the rates are higher in less developed countries. So what is ectopic pregnancy? How can you recognize the symptoms? And why do ectopic pregnancies happen? We’ll answer these questions in this post.
WHAT IS ECTOPIC PREGNANCY?
In a normal pregnancy, an embryo attaches to the uterine wall, which provides the optimal environment for growth and development. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the embryo attaches somewhere else, typically the fallopian tubes. In rare cases, the embryo can also attach to your ovaries or abdomen. The uterus is the only safe environment for an embryo to grow and develop, so if a fertilized egg attaches elsewhere, it can be deadly for both you and your baby.
Ectopic pregnancies are relatively rare, and the symptoms often overlap with potential signs of a miscarriage as well. The most common symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are severe pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding. During pregnancy, any bleeding is cause for concern and it is important to call your doctor immediately, especially if it is accompanied by sharp abdominal pain. To diagnose an ectopic pregnancy, doctors use a combination of transvaginal ultrasound and a blood test to determine a decrease in hCG hormone levels. The biggest concern with an ectopic pregnancy is that the fallopian tube could rupture, which could cause internal bleeding and other fatal complications. This is why early detection of an ectopic pregnancy is so imperative.
CAUSES AND RISK FACTORS
There is no clear cause of ectopic pregnancies, and every woman of childbearing age is technically at risk for having one. However, there are some risk factors that might increase the potential of developing an ectopic pregnancy. These include use of an IUD for birth control, scar tissue from previous surgeries in and around the reproductive organs, and hormonal factors.
If you are over age 35 or have a history of multiple abortions, pelvic inflammatatory disease (PID), endometriosis, STDs like gonorrhea or chlamydia, or conceived through invitrofertilization (IVF), your risk for an ectopic pregnancy is higher overall.
Since these factors are correlated with an increased risk for an ectopic pregnancy, make sure to see your doctor if you suspect you might be pregnant. This is important even if you do not have the common symptoms associated with ectopic pregnancies.
A SAFE SPACE
Think you might be pregnant but want a safe space to confirm? Have more questions about ectopic pregnancies and if you might be at risk for having one? Call and book your free consultation, and we’ll help answer your questions in a safe, confidential, judgment-free space.