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Q&A: What Is an Ectopic Pregnancy?

What exactly is an ectopic pregnancy and how can it be detected early?
BySandra Le Plasse
Updated
March 2, 2017
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Some women are hit with this diagnosis right after they’ve received their BFP; others aren’t even aware that they were pregnant until later. Either way, dealing with an ectopic pregnancy can be a stressful and upsetting for any couple.
 
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when your egg implants itself outside of the uterine wall, generally in the fallopian tube. Since baby can’t grow outside of the uterus without severe medical complications (the tube will eventually rupture, causing internal bleeding), your doc has no choice but to remove the fertilized egg through surgery. Because it’s not medically possible for the egg to be moved to your womb, ectopic pregnancies always end in a loss of the fetus.
 
Early detection by ultrasound or hormonal tests will help provide you with safer options for removing the egg. If detected early, the egg can be removed with a drug called methotrexate, which basically destroys surrounding tissue in order to release the egg. If not, the egg must be surgically removed. The three procedures, called laparotomies, involve either an incision in the tube to release the egg, removal of the portion where the egg is implanted, or total removal of the tube (in the event that it ruptures, or suffers internal bleeding). Again, the earlier it is detected the better, so make sure to stay on top of your prenatal appointments and always ask your doc plenty of questions.
 
A diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy may feel like a ride on an emotional roller coaster. Remember to do whatever it takes to help you get through it, from joining support groups, such as RESOLVE or SHARE, to exploring your options for private counseling. Whatever you decide, be sure to stay positive. Although  infertility is increased after an ectopic pregnancy, many women are able to successfully have a baby in the future.

 

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