Ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg attaches in a place other than inside the uterus. About 1% of all pregnancies are in an ectopic location, and 98% of all ectopic pregnancies occur in the Fallopian tubes. Rarely, an implantation is found in the ovary, cervix or abdomen.

Chinese medical treatment for ectopic pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy is a medical emergency, and requires Western medical intervention. Chinese medicine can be used concurrently to help minimize damage to the reproductive system and enhance the healing process:

Acupuncture reduces inflammation in the tube and promotes healing from treatment with drugs or surgery.

Herbal medication contains factors that allow the tubes to heal and help minimize tubal damage.

Reproductive organ massage prevents the formation of scar tissue to prevent future ectopic pregnancies.

Causes of ectopic pregnancy:

  • Infection in the tube or pelvis
  • Scar tissue from a previous infection or tubal surgery
  • Mucus plugs
  • Tension in the fine muscles of the tube
  • Inadequate protection of the lining of the Fallopian tube by secretions
  • Abnormal shape of the tube due to birth defects or abnormal growths
  • Previous pelvic surgery

Risk factors for ectopic pregnancy:

  • Advanced maternal age
  • History of ectopic pregnancy
  • History of pelvic inflammatory disease or infections in the tube itself
  • Previous pelvic, abdominal or tubal surgery
  • The use of an IUD
  • Smoking
  • Infertility
  • Exposure to DES

Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy:

  • Pelvic or abdominal pain
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms
  • Low levels of hCG
  • Low levels of progesterone
  • Weakness or dizziness
  • Painful urination
  • Painful bowel movements

Diagnosis of ectopic pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy is usually diagnosed by an ultrasound scan that shows a gestational sac in the tube, or lack of an intrauterine pregnancy. Low levels of hCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) or progesterone suggest that further investigation is necessary. A laparoscopy can also be performed to confirm the presence of ectopic pregnancy.

Western treatment of ectopic pregnancy

Observation: Many ectopic pregnancies spontaneously abort.

Laparoscopy and laparotomy are surgical techniques used to access the tubes, and find and remove embryonic tissue.

Medication: Methotrexate causes disruption to embryonic development; if used early, it can often save the Fallopian tube.