Usually, when you conceive, your fertilized egg implants in your uterus. Occasionally, though, your egg attempts to implant in a different place. This potentially dangerous condition is called an ectopic pregnancy.
If you have an ectopic pregnancy, it’s important to seek treatment right away to ensure you and your reproductive organs stay safe and healthy.
Board-certified gynecologist Julie Madejski, MD, and her team at Artemis Menstrual Health and Gynecology in Lockport, New York, explain everything you need to know about the symptoms, diagnosis, and treatment of ectopic pregnancy.
What is an ectopic pregnancy?
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when your fertilized egg implants somewhere other than your uterus. Over 90% of the time, the egg implants in one of your fallopian tubes, known as a tubal pregnancy.
Ectopic pregnancies aren’t viable and must be ended with the help of Dr. Madejski. Without medical treatment, ectopic pregnancies can cause your fallopian tube to burst, which can be life-threatening.
What causes an ectopic pregnancy?
It’s not always known why an ectopic pregnancy occurs. Sometimes, an ectopic pregnancy results from a hormonal imbalance or a fallopian tube that’s misshapen.
Certain risk factors mean you’re more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy. These include:
- History of ectopic pregnancies
- Pelvic inflammatory disease or scarring
- Tubal ligation reversal
- In vitro fertilization
- Certain fertility drugs
Your odds of an ectopic pregnancy also increase if you smoke, are over 35, or have an active sexually transmitted disease (STD) that causes inflammation.
What are the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy?
Initially, an ectopic pregnancy can seem like any other pregnancy. You get a positive pregnancy test and might experience other common pregnancy symptoms, like not getting your period, sore breasts, and morning sickness.
However, other symptoms can indicate your pregnancy is ectopic. If you’re pregnant and have any of the following symptoms, make an appointment at Artemis Menstrual Health and Gynecology immediately to get evaluated.
- Pelvic pain
- Vaginal bleeding
- Abdominal cramps
- Dizziness or fainting episodes
You might also feel pain on one side of your body, especially in your shoulder.
What does treatment for an ectopic pregnancy involve?
Dr. Madejski and her team first determine if you have an ectopic pregnancy. This can involve a pregnancy test and pelvic exam, followed by an ultrasound to determine the location of your fertilized egg. You might also need blood tests.
Once Dr. Madejski confirms the ectopic pregnancy, the next step is to remove the fertilized egg. This can be done in two ways, through medication or surgery.
Nonsurgical treatment of an ectopic pregnancy
Most of the time, our team can end an ectopic pregnancy through nonsurgical interventions. You receive a shot of the medication methotrexate, which dissolves the fertilized egg and prevents it from growing.
After getting the shot, Dr. Madejski orders a follow-up test to confirm the shot worked. Occasionally, you might need further medication.
Surgical treatment of an ectopic pregnancy
The fertilized egg is removed surgically if you’ve experienced heavy bleeding or other complications. Dr. Madejski performs a salpingostomy or salpingectomy, two laparoscopic procedures. Laparoscopic surgery is minimally invasive and shortens your recovery time.
The kind of procedure you get depends on whether your fallopian tube is damaged. During a salpingostomy, Dr. Madejski removes your fertilized egg; with a salpingectomy, she removes your fallopian tube along with the egg.
After ending your ectopic pregnancy, our team gives you personalized advice on getting pregnant again. With our team’s support, you need to carefully monitor any future pregnancies, since ectopic pregnancies can recur.
If you’re concerned you’re experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, call us at Artemis Menstrual Health and Gynecology to make an appointment for an evaluation.