An ectopic pregnancy is something no woman wishes to experience. When an embryo implants in the fallopian tube or another location in the pelvis, this is known as an ectopic pregnancy. It is a potentially life-threatening situation for the mother.
Because embryos usually can’t grow and thrive without the nourishing lining that’s inside the uterus, an ectopic pregnancy often means the baby cannot survive. This may leave the mother with feelings of grief, as well as the possibility of physical damage to the fallopian tubes or other organs. Fortunately, ectopic pregnancies are relatively rare. But it’s important to know the basics about this potentially dangerous situation:
- The most common symptom is pain and cramping in the first trimester. Other signs include vaginal bleeding, nausea, vomiting, and fainting. If the pregnancy ruptures the fallopian tube, there may be intense, sharp pain in the abdomen or in the shoulder area. If you experience any of these symptoms, call your obstetrician immediately.
- Certain factors put you at higher risk of an ectopic pregnancy. They include having scarred pelvic organs from surgery or infection, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), having a tubal ligation, smoking, or getting pregnant while using an intrauterine device (IUD) — which is very rare. However, many women who have ectopic pregnancies have no clear cause.
- Getting treatment for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and/or PID can help minimize scarring or damage to pelvic organs, and can help you avoid ectopic pregnancy. See your gynecologist regularly for checkups to ensure you get proper treatment for these and other gynecologic problems.
- Many women who have one ectopic pregnancy can go on to have a healthy pregnancy in the future. If you have at least one clear fallopian tube and no active STDs or PID, your chances of carrying a normal pregnancy to term are good. Talk with your physician about when you can try to get pregnant again.
- You are not alone. Many ectopic pregnancies occur without cause, but can still cause strong feelings of sadness, guilt, or confusion. Support groups for pregnancy loss are available online and in many communities. You can also ask your obstetrician about recommendations for a grief counselor or mental health provider.
Your chances of having an ectopic pregnancy are low. Yet, it’s still wise to know the risk factors and symptoms so you can get medical attention right away if needed. Your obstetrician can look at the location of your pregnancy via ultrasound, and blood tests may also be done to get more information. If you have any unusual symptoms or something doesn’t feel right at any point in your pregnancy, it’s a good idea to call your physician to be safe.
CarePoint Health Family Birth Centers
CarePoint Health is dedicated to providing you with the individual care and attention you need so you can relax and focus on what is most important — the birth of your new baby. To learn more about caring for yourself and your baby during pregnancy, view our list of upcoming classes.
Content on our website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. If you are experiencing a medical emergency, please call 911. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical treatment.