An Ectopic Pregnancy Can Be Life Threatening

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Do you know that an ectopic pregnancy is life threatening?

ABC News reports that the family of a pregnant US woman who has been in a coma since Sunday is blaming the hospital that they say failed to realize she was experiencing a ruptured ectopic pregnancy and bleeding internally.

Lisa Avila a 36-year-old mum who has seven other children, was 12 weeks pregnant when she woke up on Valentine's Day with severe pain in her abdomen.

When the doctors at the hospital, Anaheim Regional Medical Center's emergency room did an ultrasound, they said her baby was fine and sent her away with a prescription for painkillers.

It was when her husband left her in their car while he went into a pharmacy and returned that he found her unconscious and not breathing.

Paramedics then rushed her back to the same hospital, where they learned Avila had an ectopic pregnancy, meaning the fetus was developing outside the uterus. The ectopic pregnancy had ruptured, causing her to bleed internally. She needed emergency surgery to stop the bleeding and by the next day, Avila slipped into a coma.

Her aunt, Jule who gave a news conferenced lamented that,

"Why did they make my niece leave this hospital when obviously there was something wrong?" Jule said.

"How could they say the baby was fine if it was an ectopic pregnancy and you did an ultrasound?"

An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilised egg implants itself outside of the womb, usually in one of the fallopian tubes.

Experts suggest that it is a leading cause of pregnancy-related death during the first trimester.

A growing embryo can rupture — burst — a fallopian tube. That can lead to internal bleeding and infection.

According to Dr. Marjorie Greenfield, chief of general obstetrics and gynecology at UH Case Medical Center, ectopic pregnancies are relatively common and occur in about 1 percent of all pregnancies/

"Some of them are very easy to diagnose, and they get diagnosed every day in the emergency room," she said, explaining that if a woman has a positive pregnancy test, but a doctor can't spot the embryo in the "frame" of her uterus on an ultrasound, that's usually enough to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy.

Ectopic pregnancies usually rupture at about five or six weeks, when the fallopian tube can't stretch to hold the developing embryo as it grows, so a 12-week ectopic pregnancy is unusual, Greenfield said.

Ruptured ectopic pregnancy is the number one cause of maternal mortality in the first trimester and if it ruptures, women can lose liters of blood very quickly.

But sometimes a doctor can't spot an ectopic pregnancy until he or she operates, says Dr. Keith Eddleman, director of obstetrics at The Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan.

"If you have a patient in the first trimester with abdominal pain and bleeding and you can't see the pregnancy inside the uterus -- and you have a positive pregnancy test -- you have to assume it's ectopic until proven otherwise because it is life-threatening," Eddleman said.

What are the signs of an ectopic pregnancy?

Signs include pelvic pain on one side of the body, dark red vaginal bleeding and a positive pregnancy test, Ashton said. Because they ultimately lead to life-threatening miscarriages, treatment for ectopic pregnancy is usually surgery or medication to end the pregnancy.

Other symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy include; 

  • Nausea and vomiting with pain.
  • Lower abdominal pain.
  • Sharp abdominal cramps.
  • Dizziness or weakness.
  • Pain in your shoulder, neck, or anus.
  • If the fallopian tube ruptures, the pain and bleeding could be severe enough to cause fainting.

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