| No one likes to think about a pregnancy that could go wrong, but now is the time to be aware of the signs of ectopic pregnancy.
What is Ectopic Pregnancy?
Ectopic means 'out of place,' which is what happens an embryo implants in the wrong place, such as in the fallopian tubes, ovaries, cervix or abdomen. 95% of ectopic pregnancies involve the fallopian tubes, which will eventually burst when the baby outgrows the space.
In all cases, the embryo doesn’t have the space and nutrients to grow properly. The baby will die, and in the process cause you to become very ill. Burst fallopian tubes can cause blood loss that can result in death if not treated quickly.
Signs And Symptoms
Unfortunately, some of the signs and symptoms of early ectopic pregnancy are the same as a normal, early pregnancy—breast tenderness, frequent urination, nausea and vomiting. As ectopic pregnancy advances, other symptoms arise. Call the doctor if you experience:
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting
- Low blood pressure
- Pain in the pelvis, lower back, sometimes radiating to the right shoulder blade
If you experience any of the above signs, head to the emergency room. There, the doctor will examine you and draw blood for a quantitative human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) test. This blood test measures the amount of hCG your placenta produces, which doubles every two days during the first ten weeks you’re pregnant. Low levels of hCG along with an ultrasound of your uterus and findings from the examination will help diagnose ectopic pregnancy.
The sad thing about an ectopic pregnancy is that your baby won’t survive. The embryo must be either removed or dissolved to keep your body healthy. Treatment for ectopic pregnancy varies, depending on how far along your pregnancy has progressed and if a fallopian tube has burst. In some cases, a drug called methotrexate is given and the embryo dissolves and is absorbed by the body. In more advanced ectopic pregnancies surgery is needed. After the procedure, your doctor will monitor your hCG levels to make sure they return to zero. If they don’t, it may indicate that tissue has been left in your body, which may be removed surgically or with methotrexate.
Who's at risk?
There are certain groups more at risk for ectopic pregnancy. If you’re a woman 35-40 years of age, have Endometriosis or pelvic inflammatory disease (PID,) have had surgery on your fallopian tubes or are on some forms of fertility treatments, you might be at risk for ectopic pregnancy. If you’re at all worried, discuss your symptoms or risk factor with your doctor. It’s better to be safe than sorry.