An ectopic pregnancy is the potentially dangerous condition that occurs when a pregnancy happens outside the uterus.
Usually a fertilized egg travels down the fallopian tube to the uterus where it begins to grow. In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg attaches and begins to grow outside the uterus, typically in the fallopian tube. If the egg implants anywhere other than the uterus, it will not be able to develop normally and survive, and its growth can be fatal to the mother if not detected and treated early.
Ectopic Pregnancy and Medical Malpractice In Maryland
Ectopic pregnancies occur in about 2% of all pregnancies. Ectopic pregnancies are the leading cause of maternal mortality in the first trimester of pregnancy. If a doctor failed to properly diagnose ectopic pregnancy in a loved, you may be entitled to collect damages by pursuing a medical malpractice case.
Risk Factors and Warning Signs of Ectopic Pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancies are not predictable, but there are risk factors and warning signs that pregnant women and their doctors should be aware of.
Risk factors of an ectopic pregnancy include:
- Having a previous ectopic pregnancy
- Use of an IUD or intrauterine device, almost 50% of pregnancies that occur while using an IUD device for birth control result in ectopic pregnancies
- History of pelvic inflammatory disease, a disease that can damage the uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes
- History of complications with a tubal ligation, or having a reverse tubal ligation
- Use of fertility drugs or infertility treatments
- Tobacco use
- Sexually transmitted infection
- Any past complications or surgeries around pelvis or uterus, in ectopic pregnancies the egg usually grows in the fallopian tube, but can also grow in the abdominal cavity or cervix, especially if scar tissue is present
- Advanced age of mother
- Prior pregnancy termination
It is not always possible to spot an ectopic pregnancy as soon as it occurs. Women many not notice any signs at all, or may experience the general signs of pregnancy, and may take a pregnancy test and receive positive results.
Warning signs of an ectopic pregnancy include:
- A positive pregnancy test but negative results during an ultrasound
- Light vaginal bleeding
- Pain in the abdomen and/or pelvis
- Lightheadedness, fainting, and shock
- Shoulder pain, occurs if blood from the fallopian tube leaks and irritates nearby nerves
Only about 50% of women with ectopic pregnancies will experience noticeable symptoms like vaginal bleeding and abdominal pain before a fallopian tube ruptures or another organ is damaged.
When the fertilized egg develops somewhere besides the uterus, it will inevitably rupture whatever organ it attaches itself to, like the fallopian tube. This will cause severe pain and internal bleeding, and can be fatal if not immediately treated.
Diagnosing and Treating Ectopic Pregnancies
A diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy comes from a combination of from symptoms, like abdominal pain, that the woman is experiencing and through tests, like ultrasounds, by the doctor.
Once a woman knows she is pregnant, either through home testing or through blood samples, her doctor can test the levels of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) in her blood if an ectopic pregnancy is suspected or if the woman is at a high risk for an ectopic pregnancy. hCG is a hormone that is only present during pregnancy, and is what home pregnancy tests measure to identify pregnancy.
In a healthy pregnancy hCG levels rise at a specific, consistent rate, and these levels will rise much more slowly in an ectopic pregnancy.
Doctors can also diagnose ectopic pregnancies through ultrasounds. If a home pregnancy test or blood sample comes back positive for pregnancy, doctors can use different types of ultrasound imaging to look at the woman's uterus, ovaries, and fallopian tubes to determine where the egg is growing.
Unfortunately, there is no way to save or move the fertilized egg if it begins growing somewhere other than the uterus. To treat ectopic pregnancy, doctors will either surgically remove the egg through a small incision in the belly button, or they can administer certain drugs that will dissolve the fertilized egg.
If the fallopian tube has ruptured, doctors will need to remove a portion or all of the fallopian tube.
Women still have successful pregnancies after an ectopic pregnancy, especially if the ectopic pregnancy did not rupture and cause serious damage to her reproductive organs.
Medical Malpractice Due to Failure to Identify or Treat an Ectopic Pregnancy
There are not always clear symptoms a pregnant woman experiences during an ectopic pregnancy, so she must rely on tests from her doctor to determine the abnormality.
Doctors should know the risk factors and warning signs of ectopic pregnancies, and should be able to order the proper tests in time to prevent serious injury to the woman. If a fallopian tube or another organ does rupture, doctors should provide the best possible care to prevent more serious or permanent harm to the woman.
If a doctor fails to order the proper tests, fails to listen to symptoms from the woman, or improperly administers treatment or has an unsuccessful surgery due to negligence, consequences to the woman can be fatal.
Ectopic pregnancies should be diagnosable within the first few weeks of pregnancy, and can be diagnosed up to 8 weeks after conception. These pregnancies require quick and urgent treatment, and any negligent delay may have serious results.
We are Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers who are dedicated to helping your family recover compensation and get justice after birth related malpractice. If you have suffered serious harm as a result of a doctor's negligent failure to diagnose and treat an ectopic pregnancy, contact us for a free case evaluation..