A Nigerian Doctor, Dr Olufunmilayo, based in the U.K created a thread on frequently asked questions about Ectopic pregnancies. The albeit common occurrence was a much needed discourse as very little is known or being dispersed about this information worldwide.
He educated us on this subject with such candid and excluded medical jargon making it so easy for the layman to understand. We thought to curate and share the information. Have a read below:
What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?
A normal pregnancy develops inside the womb. A pregnancy is referred to as “ectopic” when it develops anywhere else outside the womb. Sometimes the ectopic pregnancy can be in the tubes, the cervix (the entrance to the womb) or the ovaries.
An ectopic pregnancy is sometimes called a “tubal pregnancy” because the commonest location in a woman’s reproductive tract for an ectopic pregnancy is the Fallopian tube. That’s exactly why you may hear doctors use the terms interchangeably because it’s essentially the same.
And to make what I’m saying easier for people who are not in the medical field, I have attached a little image of a woman’s reproductive system for better understanding. So let’s use this picture to explain what a normal pregnancy is, to understand what an ectopic pregnancy is.
Basically here it is. Sex occurs in the vagina. The man releases semen (cum) into the vagina. Sperm cells then swim up into the womb and then into the tubes to fertilise an egg, this new fertilised eggs then roll back into the womb and starts to develop as a baby from there.
Where does the egg come from?
The egg comes from the ovary, taken by the tubes where it slowly moves down into the womb, hoping to be fertilised on its way. The egg is released during ovulation. And this is why women are horny during ovulation in a bid to fertilise the egg.
Ovulation (release of the egg) happens usually once every month. And the womb prepares for a possible baby. So a woman has the potential to get pregnant every month. But this can only happen if there’s sperm cell to fertilise the egg. But if there’s no sex that month what happens is that the egg and the newly-prepared topmost layer of the womb gets washed out as “period” or monthly menstrual flow. This is the simple biology101 behind pregnancy and monthly periods.
But if sex happens at the right time (during/just before ovulation when the egg is released), then a pregnancy is likely. Ovulation makes women really horny because the body wants the egg fertilised. So be careful Kings, that free sex offer may end as a baby coming your way.
So back to the topic on hand, if you look at this image posted, when a normal pregnancy occurs, it is located and develops till 9 months in the uterus. However an ectopic pregnancy is usually located and trapped in the tubes, and fails to move down into the womb.
And because you have a pregnancy in an abnormal location, and a live baby growing in the tubes rather than in the womb where it should be, this presents very dangerous problems later on as the baby becomes bigger and the tubes are forced to expand. Does this make sense so far?
How common is ectopic pregnancy?
It happens in about one in every 90 British pregnancies. Sadly I don’t have exact numbers for Nigeria, but it’s a bit common. About 98% of ectopic pregnancies implant in the fallopian tubes, which is why it’s also called a tubal pregnancy.
When is an ectopic pregnancy mostly detected?
An ectopic pregnancy may be found any time between 5 weeks and 14 weeks of pregnancy. But, most women experience the symptoms and problems around six weeks of pregnancy, which is about two weeks after they miss their period.
What are the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy?
The symptoms of ectopic pregnancy are usually many but I will talk on the most important things. As the pregnancy develops in the tubes, it causes tummy pain which will progressively get worse; and bleeding through the vagina.
So basically, what a woman observes is she first misses her period then she has cramps and tummy pains then has bleeding through the vagina And if the tube ruptures, there can be serious internal bleeding that can lead to the death of the woman. Pls pay attention, ladies.
Other common symptoms include: Pregnancy symptoms like breast fullness/tenderness Vaginal bleeding Nausea/vomiting Lower tummy pain, often on one side Severe tummy cramps Diarrhoea or vomiting Dizziness, weakness or even collapse Pain in the shoulder tip, neck, or rectum
If a tube ruptures, the pain & bleeding could be severe enough to cause a woman to faint/collapse and can quickly lead to death in no time. This is why if you have any of the symptoms I listed above, seek medical advice immediately or go straight to accident and emergency.
Going straight to the hospital quickly is important to reduce the risk of severe bleeding and death. Usually, such a baby is too tiny to be saved, so as doctors our first priority is to save the woman because otherwise what will happen is death of both mother and child.
Again, I will say it one more time. If you have missed your period (or you know you are pregnant) and you have any pains/cramps in your tummy, go straight to the hospital and see a doctor immediately. Staying at home can lead to loss of life. This is no joke at all, please.
How does an ectopic pregnancy happen?
If one of the fallopian tubes is damaged (by an infection, or previous surgery or being born that way), it may not allow the fertilised egg to pass to the womb causing the egg to implant in the fallopian tube or somewhere else.
Risk factors for ectopic pregnancy include: Use of copper intrauterine device (IUD). There’s a form of contraception called the Copper IUCD, please stay away from this as a woman as it tends to increase the chance of having ectopic pregnancy. Ask for other better options.
Another important risk for ectopic pregnancy is Sexually-transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea. Please note that untreated or not-well-treated infections in a woman can destroy her tubes and make her have ectopic pregnancies later in life. Pls note this.
In simple terms, as a young sexually active woman, never ever ignore any vagina infections you may have, and never treat them yourself. Untreated or wrongly treated STDs can ruin your tubes, make you infertile, and cause ectopic pregnancies later. This is quite serious.
Other risk factors for ectopic pregnancy include Tube abnormalities present at birth Previous tummy surgery Previous ectopic pregnancy Fertility drugs. Infertility treatments such as in vitro fertilisation (IVF) Any of the above things can increase a woman’s risk for it.
How is ectopic pregnancy diagnosed?
If a young woman comes to hospital, with tummy pain and vagina bleeding, a suspicion of ectopic pregnancy is confirmed with -pregnancy test -ultrasound scan to show location of the baby If baby is outside the womb, diagnosis is confirmed.
How is ectopic pregnancy treated?
The simple answer is that treatment depends on how far the pregnancy has gone, how the woman feels in herself and the symptoms she is having. If the woman is fine, with no symptoms, and pregnancy is less than 6 weeks, we “watch and wait”.
“Watch and wait” means we won’t do anything but just monitor the woman. The reason for this is that sometimes the foetus dies by itself and the body absorbs it, and there’s no need for any treatment at all.
Only thing is we will do repeat scans/blood tests to confirm this.
However other doctors give an injection that sorts of helps the woman terminate the foetus and then the body absorbs it.And the doctor may repeat a scan afterwards to confirm everything is okay.
The last option is surgery- this is reserved for advanced pregnancy stage and basically those who have serious severe symptoms like tummy cramps or active serious bleeding, they usually require surgery to get the foetus out of the tube, and sometimes cut out a part of the tube if that’s the only way to stop the bleeding and save the woman’s life.
Will having an ectopic pregnancy affect my chances of having a child?
It depends on the affected fallopian tube or remaining fallopian tube if one was removed.
The good news is that about 6 out of 10 women who have had an ectopic pregnancy are able to have a child after.
Can you prevent ectopic pregnancy?
Ectopic pregnancy cannot be prevented, but a woman can reduce risk by protecting herself against STDs through safer sex practices and ensuring prompt treatment of any infections that occur.
Stopping smoking, if you are a smoker, also helps.