Womens Health

Ectopic Pregnancy Causes

Pregnancy for most women is a time of joy, hope, and great expectations (pun intended). However, there are times when a pregnancy may cause pain and grief. Such is the case with an ectopic pregnancy. An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs outside the uterus, perhaps in the fallopian tubes, or at the opening to the uterus (cervix), on an ovary or in the abdominal cavity.

What Happens In An Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancies cannot lead to normal, healthy growth and development of a baby. The uterus is designed to hold the baby from conception to birth. Its elasticity allows the fetus to develop normally. There is not enough room for such growth outside of the womb and in many cases, as the ectopic embryo begins to grow it bursts the organ where it is growing. Often, the fallopian tubes house an ectopic pregnancy. When the rupture happens, bleeding, severe pain, and sometimes death can follow. Thankfully, there are tests available that identify an ectopic pregnancy early enough to avoid danger. The difficulty for the mother, of course, is the termination of her pregnancy.

The fallopian tubes are the most common site of ectopic pregnancy with 95 percent of such pregnancies occurring in this area. The funnel-shaped endings of these five to six-inch long tubes are designed to pick up the egg from the ovary and transport it to the womb. The fertilized egg (embryo) is moved through the tubes to the uterus by a series of contractions along with the movement of fine, hair-like cells that line the tube. When a tube is damaged, this motion can be blocked, keeping the embryo from entering the womb and resulting in an ectopic pregnancy.

The Most Common Cause Of Ectopic Pregnancy

The most common causes of tubal damage are pelvic infections caused by sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and Chlamydia. These diseases are particularly dangerous to a woman because often they do not present symptoms until the disease has traveled to the pelvic region and infected the reproductive organs. A serious condition called pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is the result. A mild pelvic inflammation has the potential to destroy the fine hair-like cells of the fallopian tubes. Severe infections can block the tubes entirely. Women who have had a pelvic infection prior to pregnancy have a risk level five times greater for ectopic pregnancy.

How PID Bacteria Enter The Pelvic Region

Bacteria that cause PID are introduced into the vagina and travel into the reproductive organs causing infection. The source of bacteria may be an STD, or it may be introduced using an IUD (intrauterine device). Sometimes bacteria enter during an abortion. A woman may have PID and only discover it when she has difficulty conceiving a pregnancy and the doctor discovers the damage to her reproductive organs. Perhaps she has excessive abdominal pain, another indication of PID. PID can cause scarring on the fallopian tubes, which is a prime risk factor for an ectopic pregnancy.

If you have had regular, unprotected sex, you should have frequent STD tests as well as regular gynecological check-ups. PID can be cured with antibiotics. However, left untreated it can cause infertility, ectopic pregnancy, or even death.

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