What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?

Pregnant woman talking to a doctor during an ultrasound

An ectopic pregnancy is a type of pregnancy in which the fertilized egg implants and begins to grow outside of the uterus, typically in one of the fallopian tubes. In a normal pregnancy, the fertilized egg travels through the fallopian tube and implants in the lining of the uterus, where it can continue to develop into a baby. 

In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg implants somewhere outside the uterus, and as the embryo grows, it can cause the fallopian tube to rupture or otherwise cause damage to surrounding tissues. This can result in serious health complications for the mother, and can even be life-threatening.

The symptoms of ectopic pregnancy can vary from woman to woman, but there are a few warning signs to look out for. 

Symptoms of Ectopic Pregnancy

Abdominal Pain 

Pregnant woman holding her abdomen

This is the most common symptom of an ectopic pregnancy. Most women with an ectopic pregnancy experience abdominal pain, which may be mild or severe and can be on one or both sides of the lower abdomen.

Vaginal Bleeding

Vaginal bleeding can be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy, although not all women with ectopic pregnancies experience bleeding. It’s also important to note that just because you are experiencing some bleeding doesn’t mean you’re experiencing an ectopic pregnancy – so it is very important to talk with your doctor about any bleeding you are experiencing during a pregnancy, as it could be a symptom of other complications.

Shoulder Pain

Shoulder pain may be a sign of internal bleeding, which can occur when a fallopian tube ruptures due to an ectopic pregnancy. While not one of the most common symptoms, it is worth paying attention to, just in case. 

Nausea and Vomiting 

Some women with an ectopic pregnancy may experience nausea and vomiting. These are common symptoms that many women experience as part of morning sickness in healthy pregnancies – so this is usually paired with some of the other symptoms in this article when concerned about an ectopic pregnancy.

Dizziness or Fainting 

If an ectopic pregnancy causes internal bleeding, it can lead to dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting due to blood loss.

Rectal Pressure 

In rare cases, an ectopic pregnancy can cause pressure on the rectum, leading to constipation or difficulty passing stool.

What to Do If You’re Experiencing Symptoms of an Ectopic Pregnancy

Pregnant woman undergoing an ultrasound

Ectopic pregnancies cannot result in a viable pregnancy, and they require prompt medical attention to prevent further complications. If a woman is experiencing symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, such as abdominal pain and vaginal bleeding, an ultrasound can help to determine if the pregnancy is ectopic and if it is causing any damage to the fallopian tube or surrounding tissues. This information is crucial in order to decide on the best course of treatment, which may involve medication or surgery to remove the ectopic pregnancy.

In addition to confirming the placement of the pregnancy, an ultrasound can also provide information about the gestational age of the pregnancy, the size of the fetus, and the presence of a heartbeat. This information can be used to monitor the health of the pregnancy and ensure that it is developing as expected.

Overall, getting an ultrasound to confirm the placement of a pregnancy is an important step in ensuring the health and safety of both the mother and the baby. 

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