Q: What exactly is a tubal pregnancy?
A: A tubal pregnancy, technically known as an ectopic pregnancy, is a pregnancy in which the fertilized egg develops outside of the uterus. The majority, 97 percent, of tubal pregnancies occur when the fertilized egg cannot make it through the fallopian tube and gets stuck there. Hence the name: tubal pregnancy.
However, the fertilized egg can also float into the abdomen or never quite leave the ovary. All of these conditions are known as ectopic pregnancies. The word ectopic is derived from the Greek word "ektopis" which means "out of place."
There has been an increase in ectopic pregnancies over the last 20 years. The rate has increased from 4.5 per 1,000 pregnancies to 19.7 per 1,000 pregnancies. That's the bad news. The good news is, because of early detection, the death rate has declined almost tenfold.
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When fertilization occurs, the mother's blood reacts by producing a protein called HCG, human chorionic gonadotropin. The production of this protein is initiated by the fertilization of the egg by the sperm. It can be detected in a mother's blood as early as the eighth day after fertilization. During the first six to seven weeks of a pregnancy, the HCG values in a mother's blood doubles every 48 hours.
If a woman of childbearing age complains of the symptoms of sudden onset of abdominal pain, shoulder pain and irregular bleeding, an ectopic pregnancy may be suspected. The treatment for an ectopic pregnancy may be the surgical removal of the tube or the use of medications. The physician decides what is best for the patient.
An ectopic pregnancy is considered a pregnancy loss. Because the fertilized egg does not make it to the uterus, there is no opportunity for the placenta to develop. The baby cannot continue to grow without the placenta.
Many researchers believe that the dramatic rise in ectopic pregnancies is associated with the concurrent rise in PID (pelvic inflammatory disease). Other factors that seem to influence the incidence of an ectopic pregnancy are: a history of induced abortions, abdominal surgery, tubal ligations, an IUDs (intrauterine devices) for more than two years, a previous ectopic pregnancy, surgery involving the fallopian tubes, a congenital defect of the fallopian tubes.
Prenatal visits with a medical provider are important throughout a pregnancy. Some people are under the impression that it is not until the baby has grown to the point of where they feel movement do they need to see a medical provider. This is not true. As soon as you find out you are pregnant you should make an appointment to see a medical provider that addresses the health of the pregnant woman. Early consistent prenatal care are your best bet for having a healthy pregnancy.
Katie Powers, R.N., is a board-certified lactation consultant and perinatal educator at Manatee Memorial Hospital's Family BirthPlace. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.