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Ectopic pregnancy: Treatment

An ectopic or tubal pregnancy is a pregnancy in which the fertilised egg implants outside of the uterine cavity. The egg will usually implant in the fallopian tube, but other ectopic pregnancies include implantation in the ovaries, the cervix and the horns of the uterus. Unfortunately, ectopic pregnancies have become more common since the mid-1980s as a result of the rising incidence of STDs which can cause scarring to the fallopian tubes. Ectopic pregnancies are diagnosed during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, more often than not between week 6 and week 8 and early detection is best. Ectopic pregnancies are very dangerous for the mother as they can rupture the fallopian tube, cause infertility and possibly result in death, therefore as soon as an ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed treatment must be begin.

The goal of all treatments for ectopic pregnancies is to remove the embryo without causing any fertility damage. There are two methods depending on when the diagnosis is made and how much pain the mother is in.

  1. Non-surgical treatment: Used when an early diagnosis is made. It involves giving the mother the cancer drug methotrexate via an intravenous (I.V.) either in a hospital or a doctor’s office. A quantitative HCG test determines success of procedure.
  2. Surgical treatment: Used when the diagnosis is late and/or the mother is experiencing severe pain. It is surgery that occurs under anesthesia and risks damage and full or partial removal of the fallopian tube, which will impact future fertility.

The treatment process is not easy and has many frightening elements. However, it is important to remember that there is only about a 10% chance your pregnancy could be ectopic and that most women go on to have healthy pregnancies after experiencing an ectopic one.

What are the signs and symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy?

Am I at risk for an ectopic pregnancy?

How are ectopic pregnancies diagnosed?