18 January 2016

Ectopic pregnancy and fertility

Etopic Pregnancy

You must have heard of an ectopic pregnancy. It is a relatively common type of pregnancy which affects 1 in 50 pregnancies. Ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilised egg is implanted outside the woman’s uterus, usually in the fallopian tubes (in 98% of cases), but it may also occur in the ovary, abdomen or cervix.

The fertilised egg fails to develop because it is in the wrong place. This often leads to abnormalities that prevent the pregnancy, and as a consequence, the egg is rejected by the body. A miscarriage can even occur before the woman knows that she is pregnant.

If I have had an ectopic pregnancy, can I get pregnant again?

Most women can continue to have children after the previous pregnancy was ectopic. However, some of the possible causes and/or effects may cause infertility.

Causes of ectopic pregnancy

Blockage of a fallopian tube is the main cause of ectopic pregnancy as it prevents the egg from passing through it and reaching the uterus. Moreover, 50% of cases of fallopian tube obstruction are due to pelvic inflammatory disease called salpingitis, which causes inflammation of the fallopian tubes and may lead to infertility. However, it must be noted that the most common cause of pelvic inflammatory disease is chlamydia, a sexually transmitted disease that can cause inflammation without producing any symptoms.

The main risk factors for ectopic pregnancy are:

  • Endometriosis
  • Tubal ligation
  • Adhesions caused by scarring from previous pelvic surgery
  • Smoking
  • Abortions previously induced
  • Chlamydia
  • Age (when over 40 years)

Ectopic pregnancy symptoms

Sometimes the embryo is discarded directly by the body, even before producing any pregnancy symptoms. The woman may not even realise she was pregnant and, of course, not know that it was an ectopic pregnancy. In other cases, it can cause mild pain and bleeding, which is often interpreted as being associated with irregular menstruation.

If the embryo begins to develop outside the uterus, pelvic or abdominal pain may be severe and other symptoms such as nausea, discomfort and bleeding may occur.

Your body knows best. So if you have any symptoms of pain, or if something is causing any discomfort, you should consult a doctor as soon as possible.

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