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When a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, this is referred to as an ectopic pregnancy.

Ectopic pregnancies can form in various parts of the pelvic cavity even on the bowels, in rare cases but most non-uterine pregnancies develop in the fallopian tubes. Such tubal pregnancies can never be carried to term. If the embryo does not reabsorb or miscarry naturally, a tubal pregnancy can develop into a life-threatening emergency for the mother. What are the signs and symptoms you should look out for? 

What are the signs and symptoms?

Are you worried that you may be dealing with an ectopic pregnancy? Or are you just hoping to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms in case your efforts to get pregnant result in a tubal pregnancy? We will discuss the symptoms in more detail below, but first the handy list you were probably looking for. First signs of an ectopic pregnancy

    • Abdominal cramping
    • Abdominal pain, especially on one side
    • Vaginal bleeding, light or heavy and continuous or intermittent does not always apply

In the later stages

  • Feeling weak and dizzy, and fainting
  • Shoulder pain
  • Feeling pressure in your rectum
  • Shock
  • Heavy bleeding

Many women who have an ectopic pregnancy will experience your usual early pregnancy signs and symptoms too. If it is their first pregnancy, the cramping, pain and spotting may not seem strange or suspicious. The first signs that you are dealing with an ectopic pregnancy tend to come between six and eight weeks after your missed period, and those will be spotting or bleeding, and pain. Any woman experiencing those early warning signs should see her doctor just in case.

Those who miss the first symptoms will usually go on to experience more severe pain that noticeably worsens with any activity. Women with experience mention sexual intercourse, exercise, bowel movements and pelvic exams as situations that are extremely painful. Bleeding can also increase in volume. The last symptoms on the list including weakness, dizziness, and fainting, as well as shoulder pain and severe pelvic pain indicate that the fallopian tube is already rupturing or nearing that point. Hopefully, being aware of the early warning signs of an ectopic pregnancy will help women not to reach that point. Once the tube has ruptured, immediate treatment is required to save the woman's life.

Ectopic pregnancy treatment

There are some miraculous stories of mothers who have carried non-tubal ectopic pregnancies far enough for the baby to survive. Make no mistake, though fallopian tube pregnancies cannot be carried that far. A tubal pregnancy which does not miscarry naturally will result in maternal death if left untreated. This is why early treatment is so essential. What are the treatment options? Medical management with the drug methotrexate is an option in some situations. Early detection is best in this case, because the treatment can take a while to complete and is not always successful. Surgical management can involve removing only the embryo from the tube using a laparascopic procedure, or it may be necessary to remove the whole fallopian tube in cases where rupture has already occurred or is threatened. The third option is expectant management, in other words a wait and see approach. This is suitable in cases where it appears the ectopic pregnancy is about to miscarry on its own.

Ectopic pregnancy prevalence and risk factors

It is estimated that one to two and a half percent of pregnancies are ectopic. There are some indications that the ectopic pregnancy rate is rising, which can be explained by several factors. The rate of untreated sexually transmitted diseases is also increasing, to name one important cause of ectopic pregnancy. What makes you more likely to suffer an ectopic pregnancy? Let's take a look:

  • Suffering from blocked fallopian tubes, which can occur for many reasons.
  • Infected or inflamed fallopian tubes, as well as infections in the uterus or ovaries. These infections are often the result of chlamydia and Pelvic Inflammatory Disease.
  • If you have already had an ectopic pregnancy, you are more likely to have another.
  • Some sources indicate that fertility medications are linked to ectopic pregnancy.
  • Abnormally shaped reproductive organs, or pelvic injury, can greatly increase your risk.
  • Rarely, ectopic pregnancy can occur as tubal ligation side effect or to women who are using an intrauterine device.

Have you had an ectopic pregnancy? You may like to visit our miscarriage support forum.

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