All pregnancies begin with a fertilized egg. The sperm makes its way from the vagina, through the uterus and into the fallopian tube where it meets its mate and the egg is fertilized. In a normal pregnancy, the fertilized egg flows down the fallopian tube and into the uterus where it attaches to the wall of the womb. That's when things are going correctly.
What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?
With an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the uterus, most commonly in one of the fallopian tubes. When the egg implants in a tube, it is called a tubal pregnancy. On rare occasions the egg implants in the abdomen, ovary or cervix. These, too, are called ectopic pregnancies. The cause can be a scarred, damaged or misshapen fallopian tube; however, there are times when the cause is not known.
It is impossible for an ectopic pregnancy to proceed normally or to correct itself. The fertilized egg is unable to survive and, if it continues to grow, the potential of destroying maternal reproductive functions and structures is likely. If this type of pregnancy is left untreated it is possible that severe blood loss will threaten the mother's life. If caught and treated early, future pregnancies are usually protected.
Some Signs of an Ectopic Pregnancy
There are few signs to indicate an ectopic pregnancy because everything seems normal at first. A pregnancy test comes back positive, a period is missed, the breasts become tender, you are feeling tired and nauseated and you know you're pregnant. However, this is not a normal pregnancy and soon signs of trouble start to manifest. There will be light vaginal bleeding and lower abdominal pain with cramping on one side of the pelvis. If there is a rupture of the fallopian tube you will feel a sharp, stabbing pain in the abdomen, pelvis, or it can even present in the shoulder and neck. Dizziness and light headedness accompany the event. If any of these symptoms occur, seek emergency help immediately.
Risks and Other Factors Associated with Tubal Pregnancy
There are various factors associated with ectopic pregnancies such as the likelihood of having an ectopic pregnancy again if you've already had one. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is often the cause of tubal pregnancies and STDs such as gonorrhea or Chlamydia can affect the fallopian tubes, increasing the risk of an ectopic pregnancy. If your fallopian tubes are misshapen or damaged, possibly due to surgery, then there is also a chance for a tubal pregnancy. Although with proper contraceptive use pregnancy is unlikely, it does happen and when it does, usually it is ectopic. This also applies to having a tubal ligation reversal, even though pregnancy is rare after such surgery.
Don't Give Up Hope - It's Not Necessarily the End Of Pregnancy
Nevertheless, it is possible to have a successful pregnancy after having an ectopic pregnancy. Since there are two tubes, if one is damaged, the other still holds potential. If both tubes are damaged or were removed, then IVF is possible. Having an ectopic pregnancy need not spell the end of hope for pregnancy and birth.