On a the Jan. 23 episode of Love & Hip Hop-New York, the couple we also root for, Remy Ma and Papoose, shared that they were going to have a baby. But soon after, they were dealt a terrible blow: Remy’s pregnancy was ectopic—when the fertilized egg isn’t attached to the uterus— and she had to terminate her pregnancy with an emergency surgery. In addition, her doctor told her that she will probably never be able to give birth again.
“It’s a devastating blow,” Remy explained. “I promised my husband that I would give him the child that he’s been asking me for since almost the day he met me and I can’t do that any more.”
The upside: Remy’s uterus and ovaries are still intact, so hopefully the couple can have their own baby via a surrogate.
And while ectopic pregnancies like Remy’s are rare, they can still have devastating consequences for women, especially Black women, if not detected early on. This is why it’s important to educate yourself, know the signs and engage in quality prenatal care. Here’s what you need to know:
What is an ectopic pregnancy?
In a normal pregnancy, the fertilized egg attaches itself uterine lining. But with an ectopic pregnancy, the fetus attaches to other areas such as the fallopian tubes (about 97 percent of all cases), the abdomen, ovary or in the cervix.
FYI: There is no way a fertilized egg can grow and survive outside of the uterus and there is no way to reattach it to the uterus. So if you have been diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy, the egg will have to be removed.
How often does this occur?
According to BabyCenter.com, ectopic pregnancies account for roughly 2 percent of all pregnancies but these factors can increase your risk:
- Pelvic inflammatory disease: An infection of the fallopian tubes, usually due to past and/or untreated sexually transmitted infections (STI), such as chlamydia or gonorrhea.
- Endometriosis: A disorder where tissue that normally lines the uterus grows outside of it in other areas such as the ovaries, intestines, or fallopian tubes. This can cause inflammation and/or scarring, which can also up your risk.
- Past ectopic pregnancy: If you’ve had one in the past, research shows that that can raise your risk by 5 to 25 percent.
Other risk factors include being 35 or older; using fertility drugs or in vitro fertilization (IVF); smoking, which may damage fallopian tubes; getting pregnant while using an IUD (pretty unlikely); and scar tissue due to past surgery.
What are the symptoms?
According to AmericanPregnancy.org, women suffering from an ectopic pregnancy can have regular pregnancy symptoms—missed period, sore breasts, fatigue, nausea, etc.—but be on the lookout for:
- A sharp or stabbing pain in the pelvis or stomach that can come and go and vary in intensity.
- Pain in your shoulder, especially when you lie down. This is a huge sign that your tubes has ruptured.
- Vaginal bleeding, which could be heavier or lighter than your normal period.
- Weakness, dizziness, fainting or signs of shock. If you have any of these signs you need to call 911 immediately.
However, there are some women that don’t show any signs of pregnancy until their fallopian tubes rupture.
How is it diagnosed?
Likely during your first prenatal check-up, your health care provider will perform a pelvic exam and an ultrasound. They might also check your human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) levels, also known as pregnancy hormones. If your levels are low, this could be a clear sign of an ectopic pregnancy, says AmericanPregnancy.org.
Once you are diagnosed with ectopic pregnancy, your doctor will decide which treatment is best for you based on how far along it is and how serious your symptoms are, Refinery noted. For those whose pregnancy is caught early, you might be prescribed a drug that will stop pregnancy, while others may need non-invasive surgery to remove the ectopic tissue. But if your bleeding is severe or if the tube ruptured, you may need emergency surgery, which could involve removing one of your fallopian tubes.
Folks, this can be serious
Ectopic pregnancies are not a game and can have serious consequences such as infertility and even death.
Obgyn.net estimates that there are 40 ectopic pregnancy deaths each year, accounting for 10 percent of all pregnancy-related deaths. But it’s crucial to call out that Black women have the highest risk of death. We are five times more likely to die of an ectopic pregnancy than white women and these deaths account for about 20 percent of pregnancy-related deaths among African-American women.
But keep in mind…
Having an ectopic pregnancy doesn’t mean that you can never have a normal pregnancy afterwards. What’s important is to know the signs, your particular risk factors and your body.