Ectopic literally means “out of place.” In the case of an ectopic pregnancy the egg has implanted outside of the uterus. In the majority of the cases this happens in the fallopian tubes – hence the reference to a tubal pregnancy.
However, the egg can also implant in the abdomen, on the intestines, or on the ovary.
None of these organs can support a pregnancy in the same way that the uterus can. Many times the growing baby will rupture the organ and will cause severe bleeding endangering the mother’s life.
Unfortunately there is no way to transplant an ectopic pregnancy into the uterus successfully so ending the pregnancy is the only option.
When are you at a greater risk of an ectopic pregnancy?
Any sexually active woman can have an ectopic pregnancy but there are situations that place a woman at higher risk:
- Pregnancy after a tubal ligation
- Fallopian tube surgery – tubal reversal
- Previous ectopic pregnancy
- IUD placement when you get pregnant
- Damaged Tubes – infection of some type such as Pelvic Inflammatory Disease or STD’s
- Infertility treatments
- Older women also have a higher risk
Ectopic Pregnancy Signs
The symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are quite a bit like the symptoms of a normal pregnancy. The body releases the same hormones and the early symptoms of pregnancy of bloating, frequent urination, and tender, swollen breasts are the same.
The symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy may not show up until the organ on which the baby has implanted ruptures, which results in a life-threatening emergency for the mother.
More often the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy happen more slowly. A woman may experience abdominal or pelvic pain or tenderness that is sudden and severe or may be mild and intermittent.
The pain can be felt anywhere in the pelvic region and is sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting. This pain can get worse with activity, bowel movements or coughing.
Another symptom of an ectopic pregnancy that has ruptured is pain in your shoulder when you are lying down. This displaced pain happens from internal bleeding and represents a medical emergency. Seek medical care immediately.
Another symptom of an ectopic pregnancy is vaginal bleeding or spotting. A woman may not even know, or expect, to be pregnant. She may experience implantation bleeding that is heavier than normal if the baby had implanted in the uterus and the woman may believe she had a light period.
The first symptom of an ectopic pregnancy is usually pain. Most women describe the pain as sharp or stabbing. The woman can also experience lower back pain.
With any symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy and a trip to the emergency room your doctor will use several things to diagnose your condition; blood tests, pelvic exam and ultrasound.