One of the greatest ironies of life is that pregnancy which is supposedly the best part of a woman’s life, is loaded with complications. Ectopic pregnancy is one such unfortunate complication. In normal circumstances, once the egg is fertilised, it moves to the uterus and continues to grow in the uterine lining. In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilised egg gets implanted outside the uterus.
Implant of the embryo can take place in the cervix, abdomen, ovaries or fallopian tubes. In most cases, the implantation occurs in the fallopian tubes. The fallopian tubules and other organs like cervix and ovaries are not designed to support a developing embryo. This fertilised egg cannot develop normally and it must be treated early.
Causes of Ectopic Pregnancy
This kind of pregnancy is quite common and the first signs of warning are pain and bleeding (vaginal). Pain in one side of the pelvis is mild at first; it then gets severe. The most common causes of this type of pregnancy are:
Infection and Abnormalities in the Fallopian Tube
Infection or inflammation in the tubes can lead to the blockage of the fallopian tubes. The tubes are either partially or entirely blocked, making it difficult for the movement of eggs. Abnormalities in the structure and shape of the tube can increase the possibilities of embryo implantation in the tube.
Presence of Scar Tissue in the Tube
Scar tissues are heavy, thick tissues that commonly appear after injuries. The presence of these tissues in the fallopian tubes, which could be likely from a previous infection or a surgery, can hinder the movement of eggs into the uterus.
Previous surgery in the abdomen or pelvic area or a surgery associated with the reproductive system is another cause of ectopic pregnancy. This is because surgery can cause adhesions; which are links of scar tissues that bind to the organs. These adhesions congest the tube. When tubal litigation is reversed, it can lead to ectopic pregnancy. This is because, the tube narrows at the point where it is re-attached.
Use of IUD
Use of contraceptive intra uterine devices (IUD) can increase the prospects of an ectopic pregnancy. An intra uterine device increases the risk of pelvic infections and scarring in the fallopian tubes.
These risks are present even after the removal of the device. If a pregnancy occurs with the use of IUD, it is more likely to be an ectopic pregnancy.
Endometriosis is a condition in which cells that from the uterine lining grow and develop outside the womb. This condition can cause scarring in the fallopian tubes and hence result in its damage. This increases the possibility of ectopic pregnancy.
Previous pelvic inflammation and infections can lead to injuries in the fallopian tubes. Pelvic infections can occur due to sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia and gonorrhoea or due to pelvic inflammatory disease (PID). Severe forms of this infection leads to scarring of the tubes, which eventually results in tube blockage. Women with a history of pelvic infections are at a greater risk of having an ectopic pregnancy.
Cilia are fine hair like structures that are present in the inner surface of the fallopian tubes. They aid the movement of the fertilized egg to the uterus. Mild pelvic infections can damage the cilia, thus constricting the movement of eggs. Women with ectopic pregnancy are known to have reduced number of cilia.
Many hormonal medications are known to cause ectopic pregnancy. These medications include fertility drugs and contraceptives that contain hormones. These medications limit the contraction abilities of the fallopian tubes. Hence the movement of the embryo to the womb gets restricted. Women who conceive while they are on these medications should get evaluated by a doctor.
Chain smoking and a history of infertility also increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy. The chances of having a normal pregnancy after an ectopic one are high with proper medical assistance. Several women have given birth to healthy babies after a history of ectopic pregnancy.