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Signs of an Ectopic Pregnancy

Signs of an Ectopic Pregnancy

You get a positive pregnancy test and you’re over-the-moon excited. An ectopic pregnancy proceeds just like a normal pregnancy in its early stages. You’ll have sore breasts, possibly nausea, and a missed period.

In about 1 of every 50 pregnancies, however, the fertilized egg has misplaced itself. In a normal pregnancy, the fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus. If it implants somewhere outside the main cavity of the uterus, like the ovary, abdominal cavity, cervix, or fallopian tubes (a tubal pregnancy), the pregnancy is not viable. 

The fertilized egg can’t develop into an embryo and then a baby, and could endanger the mother’s life by causing intense bleeding. 

Here are the symptoms that the experts here at Capital Women’s Care in Silver Spring and Laurel, Maryland, say suggest an ectopic pregnancy. If you suffer signs of an ectopic pregnancy, it’s critical to get care right away. 

Risk factors for ectopic pregnancy

Being older than 35 and smoking raise your risk of having an ectopic pregnancy. Having multiple partners puts you at risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease, which can lead to damage to your reproductive organs and ectopic pregnancy. 

A prior ectopic pregnancy, previous surgery on your fallopian tubes, scars from a burst appendix, endometriosis, and fertility treatments are other factors that make it more likely you’ll experience an ectopic pregnancy.

Ectopic pregnancies also occur after tubal ligation or while you have an IUD inserted. Remember that pregnancy with these birth control methods is extraordinarily rare. 

Any woman can experience an ectopic pregnancy, though. So, even if you don’t have these risk factors and you experience symptoms, seek care.

Light vaginal bleeding

It’s normal to have light spotting in early pregnancy as the fertilized egg implants in the uterus. 

However, if this bleeding is accompanied by abdominal or pelvic pain or the urge to have a bowel movement, take note. When blood leaks from the fallopian tube, where most ectopic pregnancies settle, you may have these types of pain — especially on one side.

Lightheadedness and fainting

If an ectopic pregnancy continues to grow in the fallopian tube, the tube can rupture. This can cause seriously heavy bleeding that can lead to death without treatment. Suspect serious internal bleeding if you have extreme lightheadedness, feel faint, or experience shock. 

Shoulder pain

Bleeding in the fallopian tubes can cause lower back pain and shoulder pain. 

Diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy

A pelvic exam and blood tests help us to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy. While any pregnancy causes an increase in human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), levels rise more slowly in an ectopic pregnancy.

An ultrasound exam uses sound waves to help us see inside your reproductive organs and find an ectopic pregnancy. 

Treatment for ectopic pregnancies

If the ectopic pregnancy is detected early, while the fertilized egg is small and in the fallopian tube, a medicine called methotrexate can stop the embryo from growing.  

In some cases, we must do a laparoscopic surgical removal of the ectopic pregnancy. 

We continue to monitor your hCG levels for a few weeks after treatment. If they fail to return to zero, it indicates that there is still ectopic tissue in your body and you need more methotrexate or surgery.

You can still go on to have a healthy pregnancy after having an ectopic pregnancy. 

We here at Capital Women’s Care are available to help with all of your pregnancy needs — including emergencies. Contact us by calling or using this website to request an appointment.

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