An ectopic pregnancy is a serious condition that can cause potentially life-threatening complications. If you are diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy, you will need immediate medical treatment.
Medical Treatment for an Ectopic Pregnancy
An ectopic pregnancy is a fertilized egg that implants outside of the uterus. An ectopic pregnancy can implant anywhere in the abdomen/pelvic area, however, the majority of ectopic pregnancies occur in the fallopian tube. Unfortunately, an ectopic pregnancy cannot be corrected by being surgically moved into the uterus. In order to prevent life-threatening complications, the ectopic tissue will need to be removed. The type of treatment you need will depend on how far along you are, the symptoms you are experiencing and if there's a suspected ruptured fallopian tube. These types of treatments include:
If your ectopic pregnancy has been diagnosed very early and you are not experiencing heavy bleeding and there is no risk of a ruptured fallopian tube, the doctor may prescribe the medication methotrexate to treat it. This medication is typically given by injection. Methotrexate stops the cells from growing and dissolves the cells that are already present. Your doctor will also order blood tests to check if your HCG levels are dropping. If they are not decreasing, you may need another dose of methotrexate. It will take approximately four to six weeks for your body to absorb the pregnancy.
Laparoscopic Surgical Procedure
If surgery is necessary, a laparoscopy is often performed for an ectopic pregnancy. A pelvic exam, blood tests and an ultrasound will help determine the diagnosis prior to having the laparoscopy. During this procedure, small incisions are made in the abdomen near the navel. A small, slim camera is inserted in the incision to visualize the pelvic area. The ectopic pregnancy will be removed and if the fallopian tube is involved, the doctor will also determine if the tube can be repaired or if it needs to be removed. Recovery after a laparoscopy should take about two to three weeks.
Emergency Abdominal Surgery
On occasion, emergency abdominal surgery (a laparotomy) may be necessary. This type of surgical procedure may be required if you are in severe pain, experiencing heavy bleeding or the doctor suspects that your fallopian tube has already ruptured. (If your fallopian tube ruptures, internal bleeding can occur which can be life-threatening.) A larger incision is made in the lower abdominal area and the ectopic pregnancy is removed. The tubes and surrounding structures will be evaluated as well. It will take about four to six weeks for you to fully recover from a laparotomy.
Recovering and Healing After an Ectopic Pregnancy
There is no standard time frame for recovery from an ectopic pregnancy and each women's recovery period will be different.
If you have had a surgical procedure, you may go home the same day or in the next day or two to recover and rest. You will feel tired and may continue to experience some abdominal pain or discomfort. Your doctor will continue to monitor your recovery. Follow-up care will be required which will include blood tests to keep checking your HCG levels until they are back down. Physically, your body should feel back to normal within a few weeks.
Dealing with an ectopic pregnancy can be an emotional and traumatic experience. It is a devastating pregnancy loss and you should take time to grieve. Be sure to discuss your feelings with your partner and/or loved ones. A support group or counseling sessions may be helpful as well.
Advice for Healing at Home
The best way to heal is to allow yourself to grieve the loss of the pregnancy. Your hormones accompanied by your grief may also lead to symptoms of depression. You may want to use essential oils such as lavender oil in a diffuser or during a massage. This may help reduce anxiety and emotional stress levels.
Once your doctor says it's okay and you are up to it, you can do some light exercise such as walking or yoga to help get your blood pumping and regain your energy. This will release endorphins that can help elevate your mood. Just getting out of the house for lunch or shopping with a friend can work wonders as well.
When Can You Try for Pregnancy Again
You should allow sufficient time to heal after an ectopic pregnancy, therefore you should wait a few months before trying to get pregnant again. When you feel you are ready to try for pregnancy again, it is best to discuss this with your doctor. He will go over your specific risk factors and be the one to determine if it is okay for you to attempt pregnancy. However, keep in mind that once you have had an ectopic pregnancy, you are at increased risk of having another ectopic and you may have difficulty getting pregnant.
What if You Become Pregnant After an Ectopic Pregnancy
If you do become pregnant, let your doctor know immediately so the appropriate testing can be performed early and your pregnancy can be followed closely to make sure it is progressing normally. About one in three women will go on to have a healthy pregnancy after having an ectopic pregnancy.
Recovery and Your Support System
Recovering from an ectopic pregnancy can be a difficult process both physically and emotionally. Remember to give yourself time and utilize your support system to help ease the pain of your pregnancy loss.