Women who smoke are up to four times as likely to develop an ectopic pregnancy. And now findings published September 23, 2010, in the American Journal of Pathology finally explain the reason why. According to researchers from Scotland's Edinburgh University, smokers have an increased level of the protein PROKR1 in their fallopian tubes. As the study explains, the protein is instrumental in helping pregnancies implant in the womb, but when present in the fallopian tubes can hinder the progress of a fertilized egg, increasing the chances of a pregnancy being ectopic.
"This research provides scientific evidence so that we can understand why women who smoke are more at risk of ectopic pregnancies and how smoking impacts on reproductive health," says lead author Dr. Andrew Horne, in a statement released by the Ectopic Pregnancy Trust.
Ectopic pregnancy occurs in around one in every 80 pregnancies and is caused by a fertilized egg implanting outside of the womb. If left untreated, an ectopic pregnancy can rupture causing internal bleeding.
According to the March of Dimes, women with an ectopic pregnancy may or may not start out with typical early-pregnancy symptoms, such as nausea and tender breasts. However, about one week after a missed menstrual period, a woman may experience slight, irregular vaginal bleeding that may be brownish in color. Bleeding may be followed by pain in the lower abdomen, often felt mainly on one side. If you do notice these symptoms, contact your healthcare provider immediately.