Ectopic pregnancy

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Signs of an ectopic pregnancy

Normally, pregnancy happens when a fertilized egg attaches to the lining of the uterus. A pregnancy that develops outside the uterus is called an ectopic pregnancy. This usually occurs in a fallopian tube. Because of this, it’s often called a tubal pregnancy. Sometimes an ectopic pregnancy will happen in an ovary, in the cervix or the abdomen.

When a fertilized egg implants in a fallopian tube, it does not have enough room to grow or enough blood flow to keep it healthy. So, the pregnancy cannot continue as it normally would. Because it can result in serious complications, it’s important to know the signs and symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy and when to seek help from your care team.

Signs of an Ectopic Pregnancy

Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy often happen 6 to 8 weeks after the last normal menstrual period and include:

  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Dizziness
  • Shoulder pain
  • Vaginal bleeding

Don’t ignore the symptoms of ectopic pregnancy. If the fertilized egg grows in the fallopian tube, it can cause the tube to rupture. Call your doctor if you have any signs or symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy.

Diagnosing an Ectopic Pregnancy

If your doctor suspects you may have an ectopic pregnancy, but you do not have the symptoms of a fallopian tube rupture, your doctor will likely perform:

  • A blood test for pregnancy
  • A pelvic exam
  • An ultrasound

Treatment for an Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy cannot be moved to the uterus, so it always requires treatment. The two most common treatments are:

  • Medication to stop the pregnancy from growing further
  • Minimally invasive surgery to remove the affected fallopian tube. Sometimes a small opening is made in the fallopian tube to remove pregnancy instead of removal of the entire tube

Follow-up visits are needed for both treatments. Once you have had an ectopic pregnancy, you are at higher risk of having another one. That’s why knowing the signs and symptoms of ectopic pregnancy is so important. If you have any concerns, please contact your care team.