Medical Conditions

Ectopic Pregnancy

Ectopic pregnancy occurs when the embryo or fertilized egg implants outside the uterus. In 95% of cases, the embryo implants in a fallopian tube, which is why this condition is often termed a “tubal pregnancy.” Since the fallopian tubes are not large enough to accommodate a growing embryo, the pregnancy cannot continue safey. If identified early, the embryo is removed. Most often the embryo is growing abnormally, and cannot be saved. In some cases, the embryo grows until the fallopian tube is stretched so much that the fallopian tube ruptures. Rupture of the tube is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention because it can result in severe hemorrhaging (severe bleeding). An ectopic pregnancy is a potentially life-threatening condition for the mother.  Women who have suffered from previous pelvic infections such as pelvic inflammatory disease are at higher risk of ectopic pregnancies.  If you experience any pelvic pain, especially if you know you are pregnant, you should contact your doctor immediately.  A simple ultrasound procedure can identify most ectopic pregnancies.  And while an ectopic pregnancy most likely will mean the loss of your pregnancy, by catching this type of pregnancy in time and treating it before it damages your fallopian tubes, you can protect your fertility for future pregnancies.

uterus with embryo implanted in fallopian tube

Ectopic Pregnancy Symptoms include:

  • sudden persistent pain in the lower abdomen, often to one side
  • bleeding and abdominal pain after a missed or light period
  • persistent fainting or dizziness (could signal internal bleeding)

Ectopic Risk factors include:

  • previous pelvic infection
  • previous ectopic pregnancy (repeat rate is about 12%)
  • history of endometriosis
  • previous tubal surgery
  • female surgical sterilization
  • one or more surgical abortions
  • becoming pregnant with an intrauterine device (IUD) in place
  • becoming pregnant while taking the mini-pill (10% of these pregnancies are ectopic)
  • using assisted reproductive technologies
  • cigarette smoking
  • vaginal douching
  • in utero exposure to DES (diethylstilbestrol)

If you suspect you may have an ectopic pregnancy, contact your doctor or visit your local emergency room right away! If you are experiencing any bleeding and/or pain during your pregnancy you

should visit your doctor to find out what may be wrong.  Many women may mistake the pain and the bleeding from an ectopic pregnancy for a miscarriage.  However, if you experience any bleeding during a pregnancy you should visit your doctor immediately either way.

Many ectopic pregnancies today are detected early before they can become dangerous for the mother.  An ectopic pregnancy will usually be detected during a routine ultrasound test during an early pregnancy doctor’s visit.  However, not all ectopic pregnancies are immediately evident which is why you should listen to your body’s symptoms and signs.  Also, if you have any of the above risk factors you should let your doctor know so that he or she can check you for an ectopic pregnancy due to your increased risk.  Better to be safe rather than sorry.

Find out more about an ectopic pregnancy in our forum.

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