The word 'ectopic' means something is in an abnormal position. When used in reference to pregnancy, ectopic means the egg attached somewhere other than the lining of the uterine wall. An ectopic pregnancy is doomed to fail from the beginning as the developing baby has no way to get the nutrients it needs to survive and grow. Additionally, an ectopic pregnancy can cause severe blood loss and damage to the surrounding organs. Ectopic pregnancies usually cause pain in the pelvic area and vaginal bleeding. In many cases, surgical intervention may be necessary.
There are a few different things that can increase the risk of an ectopic pregnancy occurring. Get to know them now.
Fallopian Tube Inflammation And Scarring
Fallopian tube inflammation and scarring can increase a woman's risk of having an ectopic pregnancy. When inflamed, the fallopian tubes have less room for an egg to travel through, and the inflammation may totally shut down the tube in severe cases. With nowhere else to go, the fertilized egg will implant into the fallopian tube, leading to an ectopic pregnancy. Fallopian tube scarring can cause the fallopian tubes to become misshapen, altering the path the zygote must take. In some cases, the zygote will be unable to finish the journey to the uterus because of the scarring. The zygote will implant in the fallopian tube, again causing an ectopic pregnancy.
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Genetic abnormalities may also play a role in ectopic pregnancy. Some studies have found abnormal numbers of genes play a huge role in the chance of developing an ectopic pregnancy. Other studies show the role of genetics in ectopic pregnancy is not as critical or as strong as others suggest. To gather data, the researchers used techniques like chorionic villus sampling to obtain genetic information. They then analyzed the genome for abnormalities and performed statistical analyses to determine the significance of those abnormalities. In any case, the theory is that an abnormal genome can cause an egg to implant somewhere other than the uterus. Should more studies be done that find genetic abnormality significant, researchers will likely investigate the mechanism behind abnormal genes causing ectopic pregnancy.
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Pelvic Inflammatory Disease
Pelvic inflammatory disease is an infection of the female reproductive organs usually caused by bacteria from sexually transmitted infections. It does not always have symptoms, so it can be hard to catch. This is one of the most common causes of ectopic pregnancy. The diseases cause inflammation of the fallopian tubes and can also cause damage fixed by adding scar tissue. Inflammation and scarring of the fallopian tubes are two things that greatly increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. Pelvic inflammatory disease is an especially dangerous cause because it can be hard to detect when a woman is first infected. Regular checkups and STI testing are effective ways to prevent oneself from contracting this disease.
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Pregnancy While Using An IUD
An IUD, short for 'intrauterine device,' is a form of birth control. The device is placed inside a woman's uterus and prevents a fertilized egg from implanting. Pregnancy while using an IUD is very rare, but it is not completely impossible. The IUD itself causes some irritation to the fallopian tubes, which causes them to become inflamed. The inflammation increases the risk of an ectopic pregnancy occurring.
Additionally, an IUD does not prevent the egg from being fertilized, so pregnancy is still possible, though again, quite rare. If it were to occur, the chance of an ectopic pregnancy would be very high. The goal of an IUD is to prevent the egg from implanting on the uterus, and it does this extremely successfully, but not always perfectly. With the uterus almost always off limits for implantation, the fertilized egg will implant in the fallopian tube.
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Unsuccessful Tubal Ligation Or Reversal
Unsuccessful tubal ligation or reversal may also cause an ectopic pregnancy. As always, tubal ligations are not completely successful in preventing pregnancy and can sometimes be reversed. When unsuccessful, the chance of ectopic pregnancy greatly increases. The fallopian tubes are likely to have some scar tissue from the surgical procedure itself, which is not good for healthy implantation. The fertilized egg may implant in the fallopian tube rather than in the uterus. Unsuccessful ligations or reversals may also leave too little room for a fertilized egg to get to the uterus. The reversal process may contribute additional scar tissue formation to whatever may already have been present.