What to Expect During an Ectopic Pregnancy
If you have an ectopic pregnancy, you'll certainly want to know what to expect. This is a scary situation, and one that will need to be treated by a doctor. You may wonder what the doctor will do to you. What type of examine will you have? Will you have to be in the hospital? There are many important questions that you'll certainly want to have answered about your ectopic pregnancy.
What You'll Feel
First, it's important to understand what an ectopic pregnancy feels like. For most women, it is similar to the feelings associated with a miscarriage. There is usually abdominal pain and possibly a good deal of bleeding. If you have a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, then you may have more extensive symptoms. The pain may be on only one side. You'll have lightheadedness and dizziness and a clammy feeling. You may find yourself sweating and having a pale complexion. You may have pelvic pain that is painful enough that it keeps you from standing and a fast heartbeat that is over 100 beats to minute. Should you experience these symptoms, you'll need to call 911 and get immediately to the hospital.
What To Expect From Your Doctor
If you have an ectopic pregnancy, you need to be examined by an ob/gyn. You may have arrived at the doctor thinking that you were having a miscarriage, and the ectopic pregnancy will be confirmed instead. The doctor will give you a regular examine to determine that you do have an ectopic pregnancy. If you are experiencing severe pains or very heavy bleeding, they'll start an IV and may even give you oxygen. You'll have a pelvic exam and blood will be taken.
Once the Pregnancy is Confirmed
When the ectopic pregnancy is confirmed, you'll probably be given an ultrasound of the pelvis so that the doctors can pinpoint exactly where outside of the uterus the pregnancy is developing and if there is a fetal heartbeat. If the pregnancy is new enough that it isn't detectable by ultrasound, and you don't have heavy bleeding or abdominal pain, then the doctor may employ "watchful waiting" as many ectopic pregnancies resolve on their own. The doctor will monitor your progress and give you blood tests every few days. Once the embryo has grown large enough to see on ultrasound, they'll do another ultrasound to pinpoint the source.
It is increasingly common to treat ectopic pregnancy using medicine, most typically a drug called methotrexate. If the pregnancy is in the fallopian tubes and is small, you can be given medicine to stop the embryo from growing, which will cause the pregnancy hormone in your system to drop. Most women experience stomach pains for the first few days of this medicine and vaginal bleeding like you would have for a heavy period. Every few days, the doctors will do a blood test to check that your levels of pregnancy hormone are decreasing, meaning the medicine has been effective. Methotrexate may be delivered by intramuscular injection or it may be injected directly into the embryonic sac. Often multiple injections are needed. Women receiving methotrexate should discontinue prenatal vitamins and folic acid, and should avoid the sun. Unfortunately, there are times when medicine will not be enough to end an ectopic pregnancy. If the embryo is large or had implanted somewhere other than the fallopian tubes, surgery may be scheduled.
Surgery for Tubal Pregnancies
Sometimes, it is appropriate to do laparoscopic surgery for an ectopic pregnancy. This will include a small cut in the stomach and the removal of all pregnancy tissue. Other times, however, the doctor will need to do a larger incision. Sometimes, as well, during a tubal pregnancy, a fallopian tube must be removed. This is true if the tubal damage is severe. Although removal of a fallopian tube will reduce your fertility, most women are able to have a healthy pregnancy the next time around.
Less than two percent of all ectopic pregnancies result from the embryo implanting in the abdominal wall. These types of pregnancies can be particularly dangerous, as the risk of dying from an abdominal pregnancy is 7.7 times higher than from other form of ectopic pregnancy. This type of ectopic pregnancy may be discovered at any time during the pregnancy, from the first trimester to past the point where the fetus could survive if safely delivered. Symptoms may vary from those considered normal for pregnancy to severe abdominal pain and hemorrhaging. Surgery for this type of problem can be tricky.
Preventing Ectopic Pregnancies
Certainly, all ectopic pregnancies are not preventable. There are, however, certain ways to reduce your risk. If you have pelvic inflammatory disease, make sure to take your medicine consistently and to follow your doctor's orders. If you had an abortion and were prescribed antibiotics, be sure to take them all. Be careful about not getting sexually transmitted diseases by using condoms or avoiding sexual contact with an infected partner.
Ectopic pregnancy used to be one of the main causes of death among pregnant women. With modern medicine and good care, very few women are harmed from an ectopic pregnancy. Knowing what to expect from an ectopic pregnancy can certainly help to alleviate your fear. The more informed that you are, the better you'll cope with the situation and move beyond this experience to a healthy pregnancy in the future.