Can the Baby Be Saved in an Ectopic Pregnancy?

Discover Whether an Ectopic Pregnancy Always Needs To Be Terminated

Ectopic Pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancies can almost never result in a live baby being born.. Credit: Image © A.D.A.M.

Question: Can the Baby Be Saved in an Ectopic Pregnancy?

An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy in which the baby is implanted somewhere other than in the uterus—most often in the fallopian tubes, the tubes that connect your ovaries to your uterus. That's why an ectopic pregnancy is sometimes also called a tubal pregnancy. The odds of experiencing an ectopic pregnancy are about 1 in 50, according to the American Pregnancy Association.

 

After receiving a diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy, you may wonder whether anything can be done to save the baby.

Answer:

Unfortunately, although this can be extremely difficult to hear, the answer is no. When a pregnancy is growing anywhere except in the uterus, the pregnancy poses serious risks to the mother's health and, believe it or not, can even be fatal if the pregnancy is not terminated. Sadly, no medical technology currently exists to move an ectopic pregnancy from the fallopian tubes to the uterus.

Over 95% of ectopic pregnancies implant in the fallopian tubes. During a tubal pregnancy, the fetus can never be born alive. If it were to keep growing, the small fallopian tube would ultimately burst, likely before the end of the first trimester. And if an ectopic pregnancy ruptures, the mother can suffer from serious and life threatening complications. In fact, a ruptured ectopic pregnancy is the leading cause of maternal death during pregnancy.

Thus, doctors always treat ectopic pregnancies, either with surgery or medication to terminate the pregnancy, in order to protect the mother.

You may have read in the news about a few extremely rare cases in which ectopic pregnancies go to term. There are a couple of important points to keep in mind when reading these stories.

  • Firstly, these cases usually involve a type of ectopic pregnancy called an "abdominal" pregnancy. In an abdominal pregnancy, the baby is not implanted in the uterus or the fallopian tubes, but somewhere else in the abdomen, such as in the liver or in another organ that has a good blood supply. The odds of such a pregnancy occurring and progressing to a viable state are less than one in a million.
  • Secondly, although an abdominal ectopic pregnancy could, theoretically, progress to a point of viability, the situation is rare and always extremely risky for the mother's health, due to the likelihood of major hemorrhage (blood loss) at delivery. Abdominal pregnancies are even more dangerous than ectopic pregnancies in the fallopian tubes; mothers are eight times more likely to die after an abdominal pregnancy than after a tubal pregnancy.

Some factors that put you at higher risk of an ectopic pregnancy include fertility treatments or medications, being 35 to 44 years old, endometriosis, a previous ectopic pregnancy, smoking, previous pelvic or abdominal surgery, conceiving after a tubal ligation or while you have an IUD inserted, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, and multiple induced abortions.

 

Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy include an acute pain that may fade in and out in your abdomen, pelvis, or shoulder/neck area, vaginal bleeding, gastrointestinal symptoms, and/or dizziness/weakness/fainting. If you are pregnant and experiencing any of the above, call your doctor right away.

Sources:

Sapuri, Mathias and Cecil Klufio, "A case of advanced viable extrauterine pregnancy." PNG Mar 1997. Accessed 7 Aug 2008.

Tenore, Josie L., "Ectopic Pregnancy." American Family Physician Feb 2000. Accessed 7 Aug 2008.

Worley, K., M. Hnat, and F. Cunningham, "Advanced extrauterine pregnancy: diagnostic and therapeutic challenges ." American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology 2008. Accessed 7 Aug 2008.

http://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/ectopic-pregnancy/

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