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Ectopic pregnancy: recognising the symptoms to act quickly

the frequency of ectopic pregnancies is around 1 in 55. it is important to know how to recognise the symptoms of these abnormal pregnancies as they can have serious or even fatal consequences.

What is an ectopic pregnancy?

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilised egg develops outside the cavity of the uterus: very often it settles in the fallopian tube (tubal pregnancy), but it can also settle in the ovary (ovarian pregnancy), in the cervix (cervical pregnancy) or in the abdominal cavity (abdominal pregnancy).

Ectopic pregnancy usually ends quickly on its own; it is then diagnosed as a miscarriage (the symptoms are the same: bleeding, stomach ache).

However, sometimes it continues and the egg, as it grows, stretches the area where it is located at the risk of bursting the organ where it is developing, causing a haemorrhage that can be fatal.

Know how to recognise the symptoms


This is why it is important to know how to recognise the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy: after a delay in menstruation of 3 to 6 weeks, abdominal pain and abnormal bleeding (dark in colour and not light as normal bleeding) appear.

If such symptoms appear, it is necessary to consult a doctor urgently.

The diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy will be made by means of 2 examinations

the ß-HCG dosage: the level of this pregnancy-specific hormone does not rise as quickly as it should in the case of ectopic pregnancy.
Ultrasound, which allows us to visualise an enlarged but empty uterus or to detect cardiac activity outside the uterus.

Urgent medical or surgical treatment

Ectopic pregnancy, if it does not regress spontaneously, requires urgent surgical or medical treatment because of the risk of rupture of the organ in which the egg has implanted itself.

Surgical treatment

The most commonly used method today is laparoscopy because it avoids large abdominal incisions. However, if significant bleeding or signs of severe severity are detected, the doctor may decide to perform a laparotomy (opening of the abdominal wall).

Sometimes, the doctor may have to remove the tube in which the egg was placed (which is not necessarily synonymous with sterility, since women have 2 tubes).

It is indeed quite possible to become pregnant after an ectopic pregnancy (60% of women become pregnant again within 2 years).

Medical treatment

It is an alternative to surgical treatment when ectopic pregnancy is detected at a very early stage. It is based on the use of methotrexate, a drug that inhibits cell multiplication, thus destroying the development of the egg.

Poorly known causes

The causes of ectopic pregnancies are not exactly known, but it is known that certain factors increase the risks: smoking, a tubal abnormality (which prevents the egg from going down into the uterus), age (the older you are, the greater the risks), repeated voluntary terminations of pregnancy, genital infection, a history of ectopic pregnancy (estimated risk of between 10 and 30%), etc.

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