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Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic Pregnancy: Frequently Asked Questions

Thursday, March 22, 2012 - 11:15

Contributing Author: Guy Slowik FRCS

Here are some frequently asked questions related to ectopic pregnancy:

Q: I had a pelvic infection from chlamydia years ago, and now I'm a few weeks pregnant. My doctor told me to keep a close watch for symptoms such as bleeding or abdominal pain. Why?

A: Pelvic infections from STDs such as chlamydia can cause scarring on the fallopian tubes, the tubes that convey a fertilized egg from the ovaries to the uterus. This scarring may block or kink the fallopian tube, making the fertilized egg unable to pass through. When a fertilized egg begins to grow outside the uterus, in the fallopian tube or elsewhere, it is called an ectopic pregnancy. Bleeding and abdominal pain are the first symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy can be dangerous and requires termination of the pregnancy. However, if it is caught early it can be treated successfully and you can most likely get pregnant again, so keep a close watch on your condition.

Q: I'm only a few weeks pregnant and I've had some bleeding and abdominal pain. The doctor said I might have an ectopic pregnancy and that I need to have blood tests done every few days. Why do I have to do this?

A: Diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy is a step-by-step process. One of the first steps is quantitative hCG testing. This blood test measures levels of a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG). hCG levels double every two days for the first ten weeks of pregnancy. If your doctor suspects that you might have an ectopic pregnancy he or she might test your hCG level every few days. If your hCG levels are lower than they should be for your stage of pregnancy, your pregnancy could be ectopic.

Q: I had an ectopic pregnancy in the past that was corrected by surgery. Now, I'm trying to get pregnant again. Can I expect to have problems?

A: It depends on how extensive your surgery was. If the fallopian tube did not rupture and was able to be saved, your chance for a future normal pregnancy is 50 percent, with a 15-percent chance of a repeat ectopic pregnancy. If your fallopian tube had to be removed, your chances are a bit lower because if you have a second ectopic pregnancy and the tube has to be removed, you won't be able to conceive naturally. In any case, you are at higher risk for an ectopic pregnancy next time. Your best bet is to talk with your doctor about the tests and monitoring you should do early in your next pregnancy to detect an ectopic pregnancy early.

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