During embryo transfer, the embryo is placed inside the uterus to implant in the uterine lining and develop into pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy happens when the embryo implants somewhere other than the uterus.
Ectopic pregnancies can be painful and must be treated immediately. In this blog, let’s discuss ectopic pregnancy in IVF, how you can identify it, and the treatment methods to rectify the issue.
What is Ectopic Pregnancy?
Ectopic pregnancy is when the embryo gets implanted in places other than the endometrial lining. The most common site for ectopic pregnancy is the fallopian tubes. Chances of ectopic pregnancies are very rare, and only one in a hundred pregnancies are ectopic
Ectopic pregnancy can be very painful and life-threatening for both the mother and baby. So, it should identified and treated when the embryo is in its early stages of development. Identifying ectopic pregnancy can be challenging, requiring great expertise to diagnose it.
How Common is Ectopic Pregnancy in IVF?
You may think that ectopic pregnancies only occur in natural pregnancies when the fertilized egg implants in the fallopian tube as it travels toward the uterus. But the fact is that ectopic pregnancies also happen in IVF.
The embryo transferred into the uterus can sometimes find its way into the fallopian tube instead of the uterine lining. This can cause the embryo to implant and grow in the fallopian tube.
The rate of ectopic pregnancies resulting from assisted reproductive techniques (ARTs) is about 2.1% to 9.4%. This rate has significantly decreased when frozen embryos are used instead of fresh embryos.
What Are the Risk Factors that Lead to Ectopic Pregnancy?
Ectopic pregnancies can be caused due to several reproductive issues. It can be due to tubal dysfunctions or other infertility issues that prevent the embryo from implanting in the uterine lining.
They can also be caused due to any problems with the embryo transfer procedure. Below are some of the risk factors of ectopic pregnancies.
The chances of ectopic pregnancies increase as the mother’s age increases. The rate is about 1.4% for women in their 20s and around 6.9% for women in their late 30s or 40s.
Age also leads to chromosomal abnormalities in the reproductive tissues and weakens tubal functions.
The chances of ectopic pregnancy increase if the person has tubal issues like hydrosalpinx. A hydrosalpinx is a fluid blockage that forms in the fallopian tubes. Leaving it untreated can lead to issues like infertility and ectopic pregnancies.
Previous tubal surgery
Any previous surgeries or procedures done on the fallopian tubes can change its anatomical structure and cause anomalies. This can cause ectopic pregnancies.
How Do I Know If I Have an Ectopic Pregnancy?
Ectopic pregnancies need to be diagnosed and treated early before it causes serious complication in a woman’s reproductive system. Below are some ways you can identify if you have an ectopic pregnancy.
- Pain on one side of the abdomen and vaginal bleeding after you have gotten a positive pregnancy test.
- You can take ultrasound scans after 5 0r 6 weeks of pregnancy and identify ectopic pregnancy.
- You can take a blood test every few days to track hCG levels. In a normal pregnancy, the hCG levels will double between each test. If there is a change in this pattern, it means that there are some complications in the pregnancy. You can consult your doctor and identify the cause.
- You can also perform a transvaginal ultrasound scan by inserting a thin probe into the vagina. This can identify if the embryo is implanted in the uterus and find the exact location of implantation.
Is There a Treatment for Ectopic Pregnancy?
Any place outside the uterine lining can’t provide the optimal environment for embryo development. An ectopic pregnancy needs to be removed and treated immediately to prevent complications. Below are some ways it can be treated.
Ectopic pregnancy can be treated with a medication called Methotrexate. It is an injection that can stop cell growth and dissolve existing cells. This medication is usually used when ectopic pregnancy is in its early stages and no serious complications have arisen.
You need to confirm ectopic pregnancy before you take the injection. An hCG test can be taken after a few days to determine how the medication works and whether you need more doses.
Laparoscopic surgeries can be done to remove ectopic pregnancy from the fallopian tubes. In this procedure, small incisions are made on the abdomen or near the navel. A thin tube with a lens and light is then inserted through the incision to view the inside of the uterus.
Laparoscopic surgeries for ectopic pregnancies can be done in two ways: salpingostomy or salpingectomy.
- In salpingostomy, the ectopic pregnancy is removed, and the fallopian tubes are left to heal on their own. This is done when the fallopian tube has not suffered irreversible damage.
- In salpingectomy, both ectopic pregnancy and fallopian tubes are removed. This is done when the fallopian tubes have experienced severe damage and cannot recover. Whether one or both fallopian tubes are removed is based on the extent of the damage.
In conclusion, IVF can cause ectopic pregnancy sometimes. But it all depends on the female partner’s age and health conditions. Even then, ectopic pregnancy can be avoided if you consult an ivf doctor and take the necessary precautions.
Ectopic pregnancy in IVF can be caused during the embryo transfer procedure. The embryo might travel to the fallopian tubes instead of implanting on the uterine lining. Transferring multiple embryos into the uterus can also cause ectopic pregnancy.
On average, ectopic pregnancies resulting from IVF range between 2–8%. This percentage is higher than getting pregnant naturally.
According to a study, about 3% of pregnancies in women with normal ovarian reserves were ectopic, and about 6% of pregnancies in women with lower ovarian reserves were ectopic.
Overall, women with low ovarian reserve had around 3% higher probability of having an ectopic pregnancy than women with normal ovarian reserve.
Waiting at least two to three full menstrual cycles will allow your body to regain its regular reproductive rhythm, heal any remaining bruises or trauma, and enable your fallopian tube to function normally.