What to Know About Ectopic Pregnancy
Causes of an Ectopic Pregnancy continued...
You might not ever know what caused an ectopic pregnancy. But you are higher risk if you have:
- Current use of an intrauterine device (IUD), a form of birth control.
- History of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Sexually-transmitted diseases such as chlamydia and gonorrhea
- Congenital abnormality (problem present at birth) of the fallopian tube
- History of pelvic surgery (because scarring may block the fertilized egg from leaving the fallopian tube)
- History of ectopic pregnancy
- Unsuccessful tubal ligation (surgical sterilization) or tubal ligation reversal
- Use of fertility drugs
- Infertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF)
Diagnosing an Ectopic Pregnancy
Once you arrive at the hospital, a pregnancy test, a pelvic exam, and an ultrasound test may be performed to view the uterus’ condition and fallopian tubes.
If an ectopic pregnancy has been confirmed, the health care provider will decide on the best treatment based on your medical condition and your future plans for pregnancy.
Treating an Ectopic Pregnancy
If the doctor suspects that the fallopian tube has ruptured, emergency surgery is necessary to stop the bleeding. In some cases, the fallopian tube and ovary may be damaged and will have to be removed.
If the fallopian tube has not ruptured and the pregnancy has not progressed very far, laparoscopic surgery may be all that is needed to remove the embryo and repair the damage. A laparoscope is a thin, flexible instrument inserted through small incisions in the abdomen. During this surgery, a tiny incision is made in the fallopian tube and the embryo is removed, preserving the fallopian tube’s integrity.
In some cases, medication may be used to stop the growth of pregnancy tissue. This treatment option may be appropriate if the tube is not ruptured and the pregnancy has not progressed very far.
After medical treatment for an ectopic pregnancy, you will usually have to have additional blood tests to make sure that the entire tubal pregnancy was removed. The blood tests detect the hCG level, the hormone that is produced during pregnancy.
Getting Pregnant After an Ectopic Pregnancy
Most women who have an ectopic pregnancy have normal pregnancies and births in the future, even if a fallopian tube was removed. As long as you have one normally working fallopian tube, you can get pregnant. If the ectopic pregnancy was caused by a treatable illness, such as a sexually transmitted disease, getting treated for it can improve your chances of a successful pregnancy. The infection is not what caused the ectopic – it is the scarring that occurs due to the infection. Treatment of the infection does not get rid of the damage already done.
Talk with your doctor about how long to wait after an ectopic pregnancy before trying to conceive again. Some doctors suggest waiting 3 to 6 months.
After an ectopic pregnancy, take the time you need to heal your body and mind. Above all, don't blame yourself. Counseling or pregnancy loss support groups can help you and your partner cope. Ask your doctor about groups near you.