An ectopic pregnancy is when the embryo implants outside of the womb. When fertilisation occurs, the resulting embryo normally travels down the fallopian tube and implants into the womb. Sometimes, however, it can implant into the tube instead. As it grows, space becomes restricted and eventually the fallopian tube ruptures. This is life threatening.
Very rarely, pregnancy can occur in other areas of the body like the abdomen (1.5% of cases), the ovary (0.5%) and the cervix (0.03%).
One in every 2000 ectopic pregnancies results in death. This amounts to about 40 women every year in the USA. This sounds a lot, but it is actually quite rare because the total female population of the US between the ages of 15 and 64 is 102,161,823.
What Increases The Risk Of Ectopic Pregnancy?
Any woman can have an ectopic pregnancy, but there are certain factors which increase the risk, including:
- African American women seem to have a higher rate of ectopic pregnancy than white American women although doctors aren’t sure why.
- Previous use of IUDs – particularly ones which contain progesterone hormone.
- Previous history of ectopic pregnancy.
- Pregnancy after a sterilization reversal.
- Assisted conception. Those women who have had IVF have a 5% risk of ectopic pregnancy.
The only treatment for ectopic pregnancy is removal of the embryo. The embryo would not survive so it is not an abortion and is necessary to save the mother’s life. Sometimes a cut is made in the tube to remove the pregnancy. Usually a portion of the tube is removed, or the entire tube, depending on whether it has ruptured or not. This can significantly reduce your ability to get pregnant. If you have both tubes removed, or you have had a previous ectopic pregnancy where a tube was removed, you will be unable to have children without IVF.
Will I Be Able To Have A Baby?
If you have the option to save your tubes, choose a procedure where an incision is made to remove the ectopic pregnancy. This will give you the best chance to have a baby in the future. If this isn’t medically possible, you may be able to have just a part of it removed and leave the stump of the tube open (rather than sutured) so that it is possible for an egg to travel down it.
If you have to have both tubes removed and have sutures, you will need to have IVF. Your eggs can be collected after hormone therapy and fertilized with your partner’s sperm. The embryologist will then find an ideal place in your womb to transfer the embryo, by guiding it via an ultrasound scan. This method usually avoids another ectopic pregnancy, although the method is not foolproof.
You also have the option of surrogacy or adoption.