Heterotopic pregnancy is a type of multiple pregnancy in which one embryo is implanted in the uterus as it is supposed to be, while another is implanted elsewhere like the fallopian tubes. This is similar to ectopic pregnancy, which describes pregnancy implanted elsewhere besides the uterus, but with heterotopic pregnancy, a viable pregnancy is also present. This condition is rare in couples who do not conceive using assisted reproductive technologies such as IVF, but may be more common in couples who do. Some reports indicate the chances of heterotopic pregnancy as being vastly greater in couples who conceive using assisted reproductive technologies than those who conceive naturally.
Ectopic pregnancies may be difficult to diagnose as symptoms and signs may be very similar to those occurring during the early stages of pregnancy. These may include breast tenderness, missed periods, nausea and vomiting. Some may experience frequent urination as well. Those experiencing pain in the pelvis, abdomen or, in some cases, the shoulder and neck, or those who experience vaginal bleeding should speak with a medical professional. This may be one of the first signs of ectopic pregnancy. Dizziness, fainting and low blood pressure may be present due to blood loss, as pregnancies occurring in other areas of the body may burst the organs as the fetus grows, leading to severe bleeding and potentially endangering the mother’s life.
It may be possible that those who turn to IVF may be at a greater risk of heterotopic pregnancy than those who do not because of the underlying reasons that led them to seek IVF or other forms of assisted reproductive technologies. What’s more, the actual process whereby embryos are placed in the body after being created in a laboratory may increase the risk that the embryo is moved to a location other than the uterus.
Those who choose to undergo IVF are carefully monitored to determine if the procedure was a successful, and monitoring continues after successful implantation to ensure that the there are no abnormalities with the pregnancy such as heterotopic pregnancy. As this can be a difficult condition to diagnose, close monitoring is very important.