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Ectopic Pregnancies Increase Sixfold Since 1970

January 27, 1995

ATLANTA (AP) _ Ectopic pregnancies, the dangerous development of fetuses outside the womb, have surged sixfold in the last two decades to a record high because of sexually transmitted diseases, federal health experts report.

But more women are getting treatment without a costly hospital stay and are surviving, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in the government’s most complete look at the problem.

When the government began counting ectopic pregnancies in 1970, the estimated rate was 4.5 per 1,000 reported pregnancies, or 17,800 women. That compares with a rate of 19.7, or 108,800 women in 1992, the latest year figures were available, the CDC said Thursday.

The CDC first began counting all women treated for ectopic pregnancies in 1992. If researchers counted only the women who were hospitalized, as in 1970, the numbers still more than tripled over the years to 58,200 cases.

The dramatic increase of diseases like chlamydia is spurring the rise in ectopic pregnancies, CDC epidemiologist Beth Macke said. Chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases can scar the fallopian tubes and prevent a fertilized egg from reaching the uterus.

Studies also implicate failed tubal sterilizations, the increase of drugs and surgery to induce ovulation, and smoking and stress. The rates of ectopic pregnancies are highest for women older than 30 and for minority women.

Ectopic pregnancies occur when the fertilized egg lodges in the fallopian tubes. As the fetus grows, it can rupture the tubes or cause severe bleeding.

And since the late 1980s, fewer women have been hospitalized for ectopic pregnancies because new technology has moved from the hospital to the doctor’s office, where about half of women with ectopic pregnancies now seek help, Macke said.

``The point is that early recognition and treatment can prevent some of the major complications, such as emergency surgery and infertility, and death,″ she said.

Twenty-eight women died from ectopic pregnancies in 1992.

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