An ectopic pregnancy happens when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus, most commonly in the fallopian tube. The fallopian tube is not made to hold a growing embryo and can’t stretch like a uterus. This condition can lead to bleeding in the mother. An ectopic pregnancy is a life-threatening condition that requires emergency treatment.
Causes of Ectopic Pregnancy
In most cases, an ectopic pregnancy is caused by conditions that slow down or block the movement of the egg down the fallopian tube and into the uterus.
Symptoms of Ectopic Pregnancy
The early symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy can be very similar to typical pregnancy symptoms. However, you may experience additional symptoms during an ectopic pregnancy, including:
Pain in your lower abdomen, pelvis and lower back.
Dizziness or weakness.
If the fallopian tube ruptures, the pain and bleeding could be severe enough to cause additional symptoms. These can include:
Low blood pressure (hypotension).
Diagnosis of Ectopic Pregnancy
A urine test
This test involves either urinating on a test strip (typically shaped like a stick) or urinating into a cup in your provider’s office and then having a test strip dipped into the urine sample.
A blood test
You provider may test your blood to see how much of the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) you have in your body. This hormone is produced during pregnancy. You may also hear this called your serum beta-hCG level.
An ultrasound exam
An imaging test, an ultrasound uses sound waves to create a picture of your body’s internal structures. Ultrasound is often used during pregnancy. Your provider will use this test to see where the fertilized egg has implanted.
Prevention of Ectopic Pregnancy
An ectopic pregnancy cannot be prevented.
But you can try to reduce your risk factors by following good lifestyle habits.
These can include not smoking, maintaining a healthy weight and diet, and preventing any sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Talk to your healthcare provider about any risk factors you may have before trying to become pregnant.
Treatment of Ectopic Pregnancy
There are several ways that an ectopic pregnancy can be treated.
In some cases, your provider may suggest using a medication called methotrexate to stop the growth of the pregnancy.
This will end your pregnancy. Methotrexate is given in an injection by your healthcare provider.
This option is less invasive than surgery, but it does require follow-up appointments with your provider where you hCG levels will be monitored.
In severe cases, surgery is often used. Your provider will want to operate when your fallopian tube has ruptured or if you are at a risk of rupture.
This is an emergency surgery and a life-saving treatment.
The procedure is typically done laparoscopically (through several small incisions instead of one bigger cut).
The surgeon may remove the entire fallopian tube with the egg still inside it or remove the egg from the tube if possible.