Pregnancy and Prenatal Care

The Ectopic Pregnancy Symptoms and Causes

Last updated on October 22nd, 2022 at 08:34 am

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when an embryo implants outside the uterus. When an egg doesn’t implant properly inside the uterus, it may grow outside of the womb. This condition is called an ectopic pregnancy.

An ectopic pregnancy is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. Learn more about this serious condition here!

What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?

For pregnancy to happen, the ovary has to release an egg into the fallopian tube, where it stays for about 24 hours. There, it has to come in contact with a sperm to be fertilized. The fertilized egg stays in the fallopian tube for 3 or 4 days before it heads to the uterus. There it attaches to the lining and continues to grow until a baby is born. But if the fertilized egg implants are in your fallopian tube or somewhere else in your abdomen, you end up with what’s called an ectopic pregnancy. In these cases, the pregnancy can’t continue normally, and it requires emergency treatment.

Symptoms of Ectopic Pregnancy

Most of the time, an ectopic pregnancy happens within the first few weeks of pregnancy. You might not even know you’re pregnant and may not have signs of a problem. Light vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain are usually the first symptoms, but others could include:

  • Nausea and vomiting with pain
  • Sharp abdominal cramps
  • Pain on one side of your body
  • Dizziness or weakness
  • Pain in your shoulder, neck, or rectum

Ectopic pregnancy can lead to a fallopian tube rupture. If that happens, you could have major pain with or without severe bleeding. Or the bleeding could be internal. Call your doctor immediately if you have heavy vaginal bleeding that causes lightheadedness, fainting, or shoulder pain, or if you have any severe abdominal pain, especially if it is on one side of the belly.

Ectopic Pregnancy Causes

You may never know why you have an ectopic pregnancy. One cause could be a damaged fallopian tube. It could prevent the fertilized egg from getting into your uterus, leaving it to implant in the fallopian tube or somewhere else.

But you are more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy if you have any of:

  • Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
  • Sexually transmitted diseases
  • Scarring from previous pelvic surgeries
  • History of ectopic pregnancy
  • Unsuccessful tubal ligation or tubal ligation reversal
  • Use of fertility drugs
  • Infertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF)

It could also happen if you become pregnant with an intrauterine device (IUD) in place.

How to Diagnose Ectopic Pregnancy?

If your doctor thinks you have an ectopic pregnancy, he/she will probably perform some tests, including a pregnancy test and a pelvic exam. An ultrasound test may be performed to view the uterus’ and fallopian tubes’ condition.

If the doctor confirms you have an ectopic pregnancy, he/she will talk to you about the best treatment based on your medical condition and your plans for pregnancy.

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