What is Ectopic Pregnancy: Symptoms & Risk Factors

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Ectopic pregnancy is a pregnancy where the fertilized egg implants anywhere except in the uterus. This is a potentially life threatening situation for the mother if left untreated. In any case, it brings an end to the pregnancy.

Ectopic Pregnancy Symptoms:

Ectopic pregnancy is a life threatening situation for the mother. Early detection and treatment is the key to saving a life. Ectopic pregnancy symptoms include:

  • A positive pregnancy test
  • Rising levels of HCG hormone
  • Ultrasound showing absence of embryo inside the uterine cavity
  • Sharp lower abdominal pain, usually on one side
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Sharply numbing pain in neck and/or shoulder
  • Fainting from pain

It is necessary to add that in an ectopic pregnancy, the HCG levels will not rise as in normal pregnancies. In a healthy pregnancy, HCG levels double after even two days. In an ectopic pregnancy, the rise will be less than double. For example, in a healthy pregnancy, an HCG level of 350 will become 700 after two days. But in an ectopic pregnancy, it will be significantly less than 700.

Where can Ectopic Pregnancy occur:

Ectopic Pregnancy Symptoms
Ectopic pregnancy; different locations

A pregnancy is said to be ectopic if the baby implants anywhere other than the uterine cavity. The most common location is in one of the fallopian tubes. Ecoptic pregnancy in the fallopian tube can occur due to some injury or trauma to the tube as a result of previous surgery or a PID. PID stands for Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. A baby that implants in one of the fallopian tubes can result in rupturing of the tube leading to sharp pain and internal bleeding. Treatment should be sought immediately.

Less common locations are;

  • in one of the ovaries
  • in abdominal area
  • in the cervical area

In a very rare case, the embryo implants deep inside the pelvic region of the mother. This usually happens when the fallopian tube fails to collect the egg from the ovary at the time of ovulation. It is one of the extremely rare locations for an ectopic pregnancy to occur. A doctor might be misled because an ultrasound may or may not detect location of the embryo. If left untreated, it can cause internal bleeding in the mother which requires immediate attention.

Risk factors for an Ectopic Pregnancy:

Ectopic pregnancies occur in 1 out of 100 pregnancies. Technically, an ectopic pregnancy can occur in any pregnancy, but certain factors can make a woman more susceptible to it. The main factors are:

  • A previous ectopic pregnancy
  • Trauma to the fallopian tubes
  • Scar tissue either in the tubes or in the pelvic area
  • Pelvic adhesions as a result of surgery or PID
  • Endometriosis
  • Age over 35

If you have had one ectopic pregnancy, there is no reason why you will not have a healthy pregnancy in the future. Discuss with your doctor the causes of your previous ectopic pregnancy and your chances at natural conception in the future based on your gynecological health.

What to do if you exhibit Ectopic Pregnancy Symptoms:

In case you have a positive pregnancy test and still do not see anything on ultrasound, your doctor will look out for symptoms of ectopic pregnancy listed above.

In this case, it will be wise to be vigilant yourself. Report to your doctor as soon as you think you might be suffering from one or more ofย  the ectopic pregnancy symptoms. Do not hesitate to contact your doctor in this matter as timely treatment can save a woman from many complications ahead. Most doctors will be more than willing to cooperate with you in this matter as they are fully aware of the consequences of this case. Sadly, the baby is lost almost always, though in extremely rare cases, the baby can be saved. It may comfort you to know that if you have an ectopic pregnancy, you’ll likely be able to have a healthy pregnancy in the future.

Lastly, do not worry that your pregnancy will turn out to be ectopic. It is a rare occurrence and happens 1 in 100 pregnancies. If you have just found out that you are pregnant, it is now important to manage your stress. Stay knowledgeable and vigilant throughout your pregnancy in the best interest of yourself and your coming baby. That is the best course of action in any case.

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If you have a personal story of miscarriage & loss that you would like to share with us then send in your stories through our Contact page. We will publish them on our website in our section ‘My Journey Through Loss’ which can be found on Infertility main page.

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