An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs outside the womb (uterus) and is a medical emergency. In a normal pregnancy, the fertilized egg attaches itself to the lining of the uterus. In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg attaches somewhere outside the uterus, most often in the fallopian tube – hence it is also referred to as a tubal pregnancy. It can’t proceed normally and can cause life-threatening complications if not promptly treated.
1. Previous ectopic pregnancy: If you’ve had one ectopic pregnancy, you’re more likely to have another.
2. Inflammation or infection: Sexually transmitted infections, such as
gonorrhea or chlamydia, can cause inflammation in the tubes and other nearby organs, and increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy.
3. Fertility treatments: Fertility drugs and procedures such as in vitro
fertilization increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy.
4. Tubal surgery: Surgery in the fallopian tubes or elsewhere in the
abdomen/pelvic area can lead to scarring and increase ectopic pregnancy risks.
5. Age: The risk of an ectopic pregnancy increases with age, particularly after the age of 35.
6. Smoking: Cigarette smoking at the time of conception can increase the chance of an ectopic pregnancy.
While not all ectopic pregnancies can be prevented, the following steps may reduce the risk:
1. Limit the number of sexual partners: This can decrease the risk of sexually transmitted diseases, which can lead to PID and an increased risk of ectopic pregnancy.
2. Stop smoking: Smoking increases your risk of an ectopic pregnancy. The more you smoke, the greater the risk.
3. Use a reliable form of birth control: If you’re not ready for a baby, use contraception. Some contraceptive methods, such as intrauterine devices (IUDs), can increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy, but the overall risk remains low.
Myths, Misconceptions, and Facts
Myth: You can’t have a healthy pregnancy after an ectopic pregnancy.
Fact: Although an ectopic pregnancy can damage one of your fallopian tubes, manywomen who had an ectopic pregnancy can still conceive and have a normal pregnancy in the future.
Myth: Ectopic pregnancies are not dangerous.
Fact: Ectopic pregnancies can lead to severe internal bleeding and are a leading cause of maternal death in the first trimester.
Myth: You can carry an ectopic pregnancy to term.
Fact: An ectopic pregnancy can’t proceed normally. The fertilized egg can’t survive outside the uterus, and the growing tissue may cause life-threatening bleeding.
Myth: If you have an ectopic pregnancy, you did something wrong.
Fact: Ectopic pregnancies are typically caused by conditions that block or slow down the movement of a fertilized egg through the fallopian tube to the uterus – something a woman cannot control or prevent.
Myth: Pain is the first sign of an ectopic pregnancy.
Fact: Early signs of an ectopic pregnancy may include vague symptoms such as nausea and abdominal discomfort. However, some women don’t experience symptoms until the ectopic pregnancy is more advanced.