Understanding Ectopic Pregnancy and How It Affects Pregnancy
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg attaches in a place other than inside the uterus. Almost all ectopic pregnancies occur in the fallopian tube and are sometimes referred to as tubal pregnancies. Ectopic pregnancies occur in 1 out of 60 pregnancies. Because an ectopic pregnancy can cause life-threatening complications, the pregnancy must be ended with medicine or surgery.
Causes of Ectopic Pregnancies
- An infection or inflammation of the fallopian tube that causes it to become kinked or blocked
- Scar tissue from a previous infection or operation on the fallopian tube
- Mucus plugs in the fallopian tube
- Tension in the fine muscles of the fallopian tube
- Inadequate protection of the lining of the fallopian tube by secretions
- Abnormal shape of the fallopian tube due to birth defects or abnormal growths
- Previous surgery in the pelvic area
Those Who are at Risk of Having an Ectopic Pregnancy
- Women who are 35-44 years of age
- Women who have had a prior ectopic pregnancy
- Women who have had Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) or infections in the fallopian tube itself
- Women who have had pelvic or abdominal surgery
Signs of an Ectopic Pregnancy
- Sharp or stabbing pain that may come and go and is located in the pelvis, abdomen, shoulder or neck areas
- Vaginal bleeding
- Gastrointestinal symptoms
- Low levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG)
- Low levels of progesterone
- Weakness or dizziness
How Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture Treat Ectopic Pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancies require Western medical intervention, often through laproscopic surgery, but can be integrated with Chinese medicine to produce a positive outcome. Chinese medicine aims to help in the recovery of full reproductive health once a Western medical procedure is complete. Our protocol involves the use of acupuncture, Chinese herbs, and reproductive organ massage (ROM). Nutritional guidance may also be used to speed healing time and promote future healthy pregnancies.
Acupuncture helps to stimulate lymph flow throughout the body, increasing the immune system function and speeding post surgical healing. Often the endocrine system falls out of balance and needs to be re-regulated through careful pituitary stimulation. Differential diagnosis aims to align treatment protocol with pattern presentation allowing for tonification of any organ deficiency or removal of accumulated stagnation.
Chinese herbs are based on an individual pattern diagnosis. While some patients present with symptoms of exhaustion and depletion following an ectopic pregnancy, others can find residual pain and abdominal pressure. Herbal treatment aims to dissolve any residual masses while seeking to harmonize the internal climate of the reproductive system as a whole.
Reproductive organ massage is an integral treatment following any abdominal surgery. ROM is a highly specialized form of therapeutic massage that manipulates the fascia of the pelvic cavity to unblock any obstruction in the fallopian tubes or reproductive organs, and to break up any residual scar tissue resulting from the ectopic pregnancy or laproscopic surgery. The massage improves the blood flow to these organs, prevents the formation of future scar tissue, promotes healing, and prevents future ectopic pregnancies. Focus on the fallopian tubes seeks to resolve surrounding muscular tension, allowing for more freedom of movement from structure to structure and ultimately realigning the uterus through a more relaxed surrounding musculature. Future pregnancy often depends on the status of the scarring. ROM can open the center, gently ease blood flow back to the core, and allow for decreased healing time and increased movement towards healthy future conception.
How Western Medicine Treats Ectopic Pregnancy
Western medicine typically treats ectopic pregnancy with a pelvic exam and an ultrasound to confirm the placement of the fetus. Your doctor will also be looking for signs of low levels of hCG and progesterone. In most cases, an ectopic pregnancy is treated right away to avoid rupture and severe blood loss. The decision about which treatment to use depends on how early the pregnancy is detected and your overall condition. For an early ectopic pregnancy that is not causing bleeding, you may have a choice between expectant management, medicine, or surgery to end the pregnancy.
For an early ectopic pregnancy that appears to be naturally miscarrying (aborting) on its own, you may not need treatment. Your health professional will regularly test your blood to make sure that your hCG levels are dropping. This is called expectant management.
Medications, such as methotrexate, allow the body to absorb the pregnancy tissue and possibly save the fallopian tube. Using methotrexate to end an ectopic pregnancy spares you from an incision and general anesthesia. But it does cause side effects and can take several weeks of hormone blood-level testing to make sure that treatment has been successful. Methotrexate is most likely to work when your hCG levels are low (less than 5,000), during the first six weeks of pregnancy, or when the embryo has no heart activity.
If you have an ectopic pregnancy that is causing severe symptoms, bleeding, or high hCG levels, surgery is needed. This is because medicine is not likely to work and a rupture becomes more likely as time passes. Whenever possible, laparoscopic surgery is done- a surgery that uses a thin, lighted tube put through a small incision in the belly to look at the female pelvic organs. For a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, emergency surgery is needed.