There are many possible complications or disorders that can occur during a pregnancy, but two of the most misunderstood are the ectopic and molar pregnancies. These are rare but potentially dangerous nonviable pregnancies that require medical treatment. Here is a summery of what you need to know.
What is it?: This is a fertilized egg that implants in the fallopian tube, not the uterus. This is not a viable pregnancy, as the fertilized egg cannot grow outside of the uterus. As the cells grow, the fallopian tube can rupture. This is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate treatment. The cause is not precisely known, but some factors that can increase chances of having an ectopic pregnancy are a birth defect of the fallopian tube, endometriosis, having an IUD in place at the time of pregnancy, in vitro fertilization, and scarring from past infections or surgery.
What does it feel like?: You may experience normal pregnancy symptoms early on, such as breast tenderness. Signs of an ectopic pregnancy are vaginal bleeding, cramping on one side of the pelvis, pain in lower abdomen, feeling faint, and pain in the shoulder area.
How will I know?: A pelvic exam may reveal pain. Blood tests for the pregnancy hormone HCG done approximately two days apart is useful for differentiating between an ectopic and a normal pregnancy. An ultrasound can also be done to determine if there is a uterine pregnancy, however remember very early pregnancies may be too small to be visible on the ultrasound.
What happens next?: Again, this is not a viable pregnancy and is life-threatening to the woman. If the fallopian tube has not ruptured, a drug called methotrexate can be given, or a surgical procedure can be done to remove the pregnancy. Once the fallopian tube ruptures, emergency medical help is needed to stop bleeding and prevent shock.
What is it?: This is an intra-uterine pregnancy where the tissue that normally turns into the placenta instead over-grows to become an unusual mass. This can be a partial molar pregnancy, where some fetal development occurs, or a complete molar pregnancy, where there is no fetal development. This is another type of pregnancy that is nonviable.
What does it feel like?: Severe nausea and vomiting may occur, as well as vaginal bleeding, heat intolerance, rapid heart rate, trembling hands, weight loss, high blood pressure.
How will I know?: An ultrasound will reveal an abnormal growth in the uterus, and perhaps excessive or smaller than expected growth. HCG blood tests, kidney and liver function tests, or a CT of the abdomen may be ordered.
What happens next?: Typically a suction curettage, also called a D&C, is done to empty the uterus. Follow up exams will be necessary to make sure that the abnormal tissue doesn’t start to grow again.
The best way to avoid complications of these types of pregnancy is early detection. If you aren’t looking to get pregnant, choose a reliable birth control method. If you are, listen to your body and know what symptoms to look out for.