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What's an ectopic pregnancy and what causes it?

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An egg which implants itself outside of the uterine wall is called an ectopic pregnancy. Frequently the egg implants inside the fallopian tube. This is the case in roughly 95% of all ectopic pregnancies. Many people refer to ectopic pregnancies as tubal pregnancies.
The fetus grows inside the uterus. Thus, an implanted egg outside of that environment will not result in a viable pregnancy, but it can cause serious medical concerns. For example, the fallopian tube can rupture as a result of the implanted egg.
Ectopic pregnancies cannot be carried to term. It is not possible to relocate the fertilized egg to the uterus. Thus, your doctor will have to surgically end the pregnancy.
Many women do not realise their pregnancy is ectopic because the signs mimic traditional pregnancy. However, women can experience sharp, stabbing pain or vaginal bleeding. Other symptoms that can be present in ectopic pregnancy are dizziness or fainting, pain in the lower back, low blood pressure, or spotting.
One test which can suggest an ectopic pregnancy is a quantative hCG test, which can indicate appropriate hCG levels for the stage of pregnancy you are in. Other tests may be a physical exam and an ultrasound. However, if the pregnancy is not yet 5 weeks along, it can be extremely difficult for doctors to determine the presence of an ectopic pregnancy. In this case, you may be re-checked in a few days.
Early stage ectopic pregnancies are often injected with methotrexate, which effectively halts the growth of the embryo. If the pregnancy is further along, surgery may be required.
When you have had one ectopic pregnancy, your likelihood of having a subsequent ectopic event increase. In fact, each ectopic pregnancy you have raises the likelihood that you will have another one.
Ectopic pregnancy can impact your future fertility, but this is more likely if you had fertility issues prior.
Your risk for ectopic pregnancy is greatest if you are older than 35 and have infertility issues, PID, prior surgery on your fallopian tube, or a previous ectopic pregnancy.
Having an ectopic pregnancy can be challenging emotionally. However, it is not a sentence of childlessness. Many women successfully conceive after an ectopic pregnancy.
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