Ectopic Pregnancies: Causes, Risks, and Treatments

By on November 3, 2020

Although ectopic pregnancies can be dangerous to your health, it’s important to know that with the right care from your OB/GYN, ectopic pregnancies are treatableHere’s what to know about them and how your OB/GYN can help. 

What is an Ectopic Pregnancy? 

An ectopic pregnancy happens when a fertilized egg implants outside the uterus, most commonly in one of the fallopian tubes. As the pregnancy progresses, it can cause the fallopian tube to burst and lead to life-threatening bleeding. In this case, emergency surgery is needed. Ectopic pregnancies can also rarely occur in areas like the abdomen, ovary, or cervix. 

What Causes Ectopic Pregnancies? 

There are a number of factors that can contribute to your risk for ectopic pregnancies. This can include things like previous damage to your fallopian tubes because of injury or surgery, certain STIs or STDs, conditions like pelvic inflammatory disease or endometriosis, or a history of ectopic pregnancies. Additionally, your risk can be higher if you’re 35 or older, or if you have a history of smoking or infertility. Assisted reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization (IVF) can sometimes produce ectopic pregnancies, as well as IUDs if they fail to prevent pregnancy. 

Despite these causes, about half of all women who have an ectopic pregnancy do not have any known risk factors 

What are the Symptoms of an Ectopic Pregnancy? 

An ectopic pregnancy can present just like a regular pregnancy at first, with missed periods, upset stomach, and tenderness in the breasts. However, it can come with symptoms like abnormal bleeding and pain in the lower back, abdomen, or pelvis. This can sometimes be solely on one side of the body. If an ectopic pregnancy continues to grow, it can produce more serious symptoms like sudden and severe pain in the stomach, pelvis, or even shoulder. This can be accompanied by weakness, dizziness, or fainting. If you experience these symptoms, you should see a doctor immediately. 

How is an Ectopic Pregnancy Treated? 

If you experience symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, it can often be diagnosed with a high-frequency ultrasound. Ensuring that the pregnancy is present in the uterus is often standard for normal pregnancies, too, as a preventative measure. Ectopic pregnancies can also be indicated by hormone monitoring since they present differently than normal pregnancies. If you have an ectopic pregnancy, it can be treated through surgery with a small incision in the abdomen. Often, the fallopian tube is removed in order to prevent future ectopic pregnancies from happening.  

Another option is a medication called methotrexate, which blocks cell division and can stop the pregnancy from growing. This can be administered by injection and ends the pregnancy so that the body can absorb it over the course of 4-6 weeks. This can be beneficial for keeping the fallopian tubes intact. 

Can I Get Pregnant Again After an Ectopic Pregnancy? 

In most cases, it is possible to become pregnant again after an ectopic pregnancy. However, your chances of a healthy pregnancy can depend on the treatment method and any existing risk factors. Generally, your chances of having another ectopic pregnancy are usually around 2-3% If a fallopian tube is removed during treatment, your gynecologist can discuss your options for achieving a healthy pregnancy in the future. 

Schedule an Appointment 

Ectopic pregnancies can be life-threatening, so it’s important to partner with an award-winning gynecologist and high-risk pregnancy specialist to learn more. To schedule an appointment with our New York City team, we invite you to contact our office by calling or filling out our online form. 

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Maternal Fetal Medicine blogs are intended for educational purposes only and do not replace certified professional care. Medical conditions vary and change frequently. Please ask your doctor any questions you may have regarding your condition to receive a proper diagnosis or risk analysis. Thank you!