Know the Risks and Signs of Ectopic Pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancy arises when the fertilized egg fails to attach normally to the lining of the uterus and instead implants elsewhere. This misstep by your body can result in serious consequences if left untreated.
In almost all cases of ectopic pregnancy, the egg implants in the walls of the fallopian tubes. In very rare cases, it can implant in the abdomen, ovaries or cervix. An ectopic pregnancy will not progress like a normal pregnancy, and serious damage can occur to the ovaries or fallopian tubes. Early diagnosis and treatment of an ectopic pregnancy is essential to avoid major health concerns, such as massive bleeding, and to ensure continued fertility.
Ectopic pregnancies are often the result of already damaged fallopian tubes. If the fertilized egg cannot pass through the tube, its progress may be halted and it will grow inside the fallopian tube. If you’ve had chlamydia, gonorrhea, endometriosis or fertility treatments, your fallopian tubes may have been damaged, increasing your risk of ectopic pregnancy. Smoking also increases the risk.
In the earliest stages, an ectopic pregnancy will feel much like a normal pregnancy. The woman may have nausea, fatigue, sore breasts and she will have missed a period. If the woman suffers from belly or pelvic pain that appears sharp on one side and then moves toward the center then something is wrong. The pain may intensify if she moves or strains. Vaginal bleeding is also a key sign of ectopic pregnancy.
Your doctor will first determine that you are indeed pregnant. The doctor may then give you a pelvic exam to determine the size of the uterus or to feel for abnormal growths, pain or tenderness. Blood tests may be done to determine how much of the pregnancy hormone hCG is present. Low amounts may indicate an ectopic pregnancy. Finally, an ultrasound can be used to determine the location of the fetus.