Archive for November, 2010
By: Mary Rausch, MD
Very early in the pregnancy, doctors cannot tell where a pregnancy may be because it is too small to be seen on ultrasound. Sometimes a pregnancy may grow outside of the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tube, which can be very dangerous. These pregnancies, which are called ectopic pregnancies, can lead to potentially life-threatening bleeding if it grows in and ruptures the fallopian tube. Symptoms women may have include pain and bleeding, but such symptoms can also accompany miscarriages or normal pregnancies. When a woman has symptoms early in pregnancy, she is often followed with blood hormone levels and ultrasounds for a period until the doctor can diagnose whether she has a normal pregnancy, miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy.
Over the past few years, I have been working with a team to develop a test to diagnose ectopic pregnancy before it can cause serious damage to the woman and before it is visible on ultrasound. Although the test we’ve developed needs to be studied further before it could be used clinically, in preliminary studies it was 99% accurate at differentiating ectopic from normal pregnancies. We are hopeful that one day we will have a blood test which will let women know if they have a normal or abnormal pregnancy very early on. Such a test could bring great relief to women with pain or bleeding early in the pregnancy, if the results are that it is a normal pregnancy, or could allow for immediate treatment if the pregnancy isn’t normal. Knowing the diagnosis days or weeks earlier would not only be safer, but would provide piece of mind.
When a woman has tried so hard to become pregnant, the first trimester can be a both an exciting and scary time. As a fertility doctor seeing so many women go through this period of uncertainly, it is very satisfying to be a part of a project that could improve the experience of these women.