In a normal pregnancy, fertilized eggs implant and develop in the uterus. With an ectopic pregnancy, the egg will implant somewhere other than the uterus. In many cases it implants in the fallopian tubes, which is why ectopic pregnancies are commonly called ‘tubal pregnancies’. The egg can also implant in the cervix, ovary, or the abdomen.
Unfortunately, none of those spaces are the right area, nor do they have the right nurturing tissue for the development of a pregnancy. Sadly, during an ectopic pregnancy, as the fetus grows, it will eventually burst whatever organ is containing it. The result can be severe bleeding and it can also endanger a mother’s life. A classic ectopic pregnancy will not and does not develop into a live birth; it’s impossible.
Signs & Symptoms of Ectopic Pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancies can be difficult to diagnose because the symptoms are so similar to those of any normal pregnancy in the early stages. These signs include missed periods, nausea, tiredness, tender breasts, vomiting, or frequent urination.
Often, the very first signs of an ectopic pregnancy are vaginal bleeding or pain. A woman might experience pain in the abdomen, pelvis, or even in the neck or shoulder. The pain can range from mild and dull to sharp and severe; the pain might be felt on one side of the pelvis area or all over. If blood from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy builds up it can irritate certain nerves in areas like the neck and shoulders.
Here are a few more symptoms that may occur during an ectopic pregnancy.
- Lower back pain
- Vaginal spotting
- Low blood pressure (due to blood loss)
- Dizziness or fainting (due to blood loss)
Causes of Ectopic Pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancies typically happen because a fertilized egg couldn’t move quickly enough down into the fallopian tube into the uterus where it should be. The fallopian tube can become blocked from inflammation or an infection. Below are a few more reasons the tube can become blocked.
- Scar tissue from previous abdominal or fallopian surgeries.
- PID or pelvic inflammatory disease
- Endometriosis, when cells from the lining of the uterus implant and grow elsewhere in the body.
- Birth defects that change the shape of the fallopian tube (this is rare).
How Ectopic Pregnancy Is Diagnosed
An ultrasound is generally the first step for a woman who might be experiencing an ectopic pregnancy. The ultrasound allows the doctor to see exactly where the developing fetus is located. Typically, pregnancies are too small to see on an ultrasound until 5 or 6 weeks after the woman’s last menstrual cycles. If an ultrasound shows nothing, the doctor might perform the test using a wand-like device that goes into the vagina.
It might be necessary for testing to be done every few days if the initial test doesn’t confirm or rule out an ectopic pregnancy.
How’s an ectopic pregnancy treated?
The treatment of an ectopic pregnancy depends on different things such as, the size and location of the pregnancy. In some cases, an ectopic pregnancy is treated with an injection of methotrexate, which stops the embryo’s growth. Afterwards, the tissue it usually absorbed into the woman’s body.
If the pregnancy is farther along, a surgery is generally required. Whatever treatment is done, it’s essential to see the doctor regularly to ensure the pregnancy hormones return to zero, which can take weeks. Elevated levels of pregnancy hormones after several weeks could be a sign that some of the ectopic tissue remains.
Are future pregnancies possible?
Many women that experience ectopic pregnancies can have a perfectly normal and healthy pregnancy in the future. Experiencing an ectopic pregnancy can increase the risk of having another one, however, that’s not always the case.
What increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy?
Any female can have an ectopic pregnancy. However, the risk is higher for women older than 35, as well as those that have experienced the following:
- Previous ectopic pregnancy
- Fallopian tube surgeries
- Infertility issues
- Medication that stimulates ovulation
- Becoming pregnant while using an IUD or Intrauterine Device
There is no time like the present to reach out to your doctor if you’re experiencing any difficulties during your pregnancy or if you want to ask questions. Never hesitate to learn more as soon as you can.