Ectopic Pregnancy, PID and STDs
An ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy that occurs outside of the womb, when the egg attaches somewhere other than the uterine lining. It can occur in the pelvic cavity but most often, an ectopic pregnancy is found in one of the fallopian tubes. It never ends well with a live birth and there can be some serious implications for the woman when an ectopic pregnancy occurs. Sometimes it will resolve itself by absorbing itself back into the body and other times it must be terminated with either surgery or medications.
Pelvic Infections, Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Ectopic Pregnancy
Although there may not be one specific reason for an ectopic pregnancy, they often occur as a result of pelvic infection. The risk of having an ectopic pregnancy actually increases significantly if a woman has a pelvic infection or a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Even though pelvic infections can occur in women who have never been sexually active, the primary culprit in pelvic infections is an STD - most often gonorrhea or Chlamydia, two of the most common sexually transmitted diseases.
How PID Causes Ectopic Pregnancies
The fallopian tubes are between five and six inches long and have funnel-shaped, open ends where the egg that is released from the ovary is caught and transported to the uterus. When an egg is fertilized, the embryo is transported through the tube by a combination of the contractions of the muscles surrounding the tube and the movement of fine, hair-like calls lining the tube, called cilia. This "squeeze and sweep" motion of the fallopian tube moves the fertilized egg into the uterus where it implants and grows.
However, a blocked fallopian tube can cause problems by stopping the sweeping of the embryo into the uterus. Along with endometriosis and the use of intrauterine devices for birth control, the most common cause of blocked tubes is pelvic infection. As previously mentioned, the most common cause of pelvic infection is sexually transmitted diseases like gonorrhea and chlamydia. The danger of these STDs is that a woman doesn't know she's got one until she tries to conceive. An examination and testing reveals damage to the pelvic area where the reproductive organs sit. This situation can and often does lead to pelvic inflammatory disease, or PID. Mild pelvic infections can destroy the delicate hair-like cells lining the fallopian tubes. Severe infections can scar the tubes, causing blockages. Women who have had a pelvic infection are five times more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy than women who have never had one.
The Symptoms of PID
Pelvic inflammatory disease, PID, refers to infection of the uterus, fallopian tubes and other reproductive organs that causes symptoms such as:
· lower abdominal pain
· unusual vaginal discharge that may have a foul odor
· painful intercourse
· painful urination
· irregular menstrual bleeding
· pain in the right upper abdomen in rare cases
The symptoms may run from mild to severe. PID is a very serious complication of some STDS, particularly chlamydia and gonorrhea. Chlamydia tends to cause mild symptoms, however the damage to the reproductive organs is very serious. Chlamydia can cause a fallopian tube infection without any symptoms as all. Gonorrhea has a very similar effect.
It is estimated that three-quarters of a million women a year in the US experience an acute bout of PID. Between 10 and 15 percent of these women will become infertile as a result. A large number of ectopic pregnancies are the direct consequences of PID. The more sex partners a woman has, the greater the risk of contracting an STD and the higher the risk of PID as a result.
How PID Occurs and Other Risk Factors
PID occurs when bacteria move upward from a woman's vagina or cervix into her reproductive organs. Many different organisms can cause PID, but many cases of PID are directly linked to STDs. Sexually active women in their childbearing years are most at risk, and those under age 25 are more likely to develop PID than those over the age of 25. The reason for this is because the cervix of young women below the age of 25 is not fully matured so the susceptibility to STDs and PID is greater.
Douching can provide the right environment for a PID because it changes the vaginal flora in negative ways forcing bacteria into the upper reproductive organs from the vagina. Women with an IUD also have increased risk of contracting PID near the time of insertion. The risk in this instance is significantly reduced if she is tested beforehand for STDs.
Learn more about ectopic pregnancy in this section.