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Ectopic Pregnancy: Know the Signs

Updated: Oct 2, 2022

Ectopic pregnancy is a potentially life-threatening condition which occurs in approximately 1-2% of all pregnancies. Early detection and treatment is an important factor in outcome. We will be discussing ectopic pregnancy, its symptoms and the various treatment options.

What Is an Ectopic Pregnancy?

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg grows somewhere outside of the uterus. For most women with ectopic pregnancies, the fertilized egg grows in the fallopian tube.

What Causes an Ectopic Pregnancy?

In cases of ectopic pregnancy, a fertilized egg is unable to travel quick enough to the uterus. Often, inflammation or infection in the tube may cause the fallopian tube to be partially blocked, thus inhibiting movement of the fertilized egg.

What Are the Risk Factors for Ectopic Pregnancy?

There are several risk factors which increase the likelihood of an ectopic pregnancy. These include a history of prior ectopic pregnancies, a history of prior pelvic surgeries, smoking, a history of pelvic inflammatory disease and use of an intrauterine device.

How Can I Prevent Ectopic Pregnancy?

There are no ways to prevent ectopic pregnancy, although there are some things you can do to decrease your risk. Since smoking is a known risk factor for ectopic pregnancy, quitting smoking will be beneficial. Using condoms prior to attempting pregnancy decreases the risk of pelvic infection, and thus may help decrease the risk of ectopic pregnancy.

What Are the Early Signs of Ectopic Pregnancy?

The early signs of ectopic pregnancy include pelvic pain and light vaginal bleeding. Women with an ectopic pregnancy may also have other signs of early pregnancy, including nausea and breast tenderness. Some women may also experience shoulder pain. If the fallopian tube ruptures, a woman is at risk for shock.

How Is an Ectopic Pregnancy Treated?

An ectopic pregnancy is an emergency medical condition which requires immediate attention. In some cases, the physician may recommend expectant management. Specifically, if the symptoms are mild or if the pregnancy cannot be found, your physician may elect to closely monitor you. If the ectopic pregnancy is early, a medication called methotrexate may be prescribed. This medication stops the pregnancy from growing. For some women, surgery is needed is remove the pregnancy and/or fallopian tube.

Takeaway Message:

Ectopic pregnancies are rare, although they can be life-threatening. It is important that women be aware of the signs and symptoms of ectopic pregnancy. Depending on your condition, treatment options include expectant management, methotrexate and surgery.

Have you been diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy? Please share in the comments below.

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