After an egg is released from the ovary and fertilized in the fallopian tube it travels to the uterus and implants itself. In rare cases, the fertilized egg attaches or implants itself outside the uterus. The most common place is the fallopian tubes, but in rare cases implantation may also happen in the ovary, cervix or within the abdomen. When this happens the pregnancy is called an ectopic pregnancy.
An ectopic pregnancy is an unviable pregnancy which means the pregnancy cannot be carried to full term. This may be very dangerous for the mother as well as the unborn baby. The most common treatments for ectopic pregnancies are medicine and surgery.
Symptoms of ectopic pregnancy
- Infection or inflammation of the fallopian tubes may cause them to become partially blocked.
- Scar tissue from a previous surgery of the fallopian tubes may also hinder the egg’s movement.
- Adhesions caused by previous surgery in the pelvic area.
- Abnormality in the shape of the tube due to a birth defect.
Risk factors for ectopic pregnancies
- Maternal age higher than thirty-five years
- Previous ectopic pregnancy
- Previous pelvic or abdominal surgery
- Scar tissue in the tubes due to surgery or infection such as chlamydia.
- Assisted fertility treatments
Symptoms of ectopic pregnancies
- The most common sign of an ectopic pregnancy is a sharp pain in one side of the stomach that may spread to the other side.
- If there is a pain in the shoulder while inhaling or exhaling while pregnant, the chances of having an ectopic pregnancy are very high.
- Heavy vaginal bleeding while pregnant or if an abnormal vaginal discharge with a strange colour is present, then the likelihood of ectopic pregnancy is high.
- If there is a pain or discomfort during urinating while pregnant, then there is a strong likelihood that the pregnancy is ectopic.
Most symptoms of ectopic pregnancy are similar to that of a normal pregnancy. Confirmation of ectopic pregnancy is done by a vaginal ultrasound and monitoring blood hCG (hormone) level. Another sign of ectopic pregnancy is that the uterus is smaller than what it should be at that stage of pregnancy.
An ectopic pregnancy is treated either through medicine or surgery. If detected in the early stages, then medicine is administered that causes the pregnancy to end and the body of the mother absorbs the remains. If, however, it is detected at a later stage, or the doctor perceives any threat to the life of the mother, then the pregnancy has to be terminated surgically.