Ectopic pregnancy


The process of pregnancy, and subsequent birth begins with a fertilized egg, which then implants into the lining of the uterus (womb), attaching and growing from that position.

Pregnancy, generally speaking, is an every day experience, impacting the lives of women across the world, regardless of socioeconomic status or available resources, not limited to those who are expecting a child, nor those who are able to provide for the birth of a child.

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants and grows outside the uterus, usually in the Fallopian tube (which is the usual means and method of how the egg travels from the ovary to the uterus), becoming fertilized and growing inside the tube, instead of in the uterus.

An ectopic pregnancy can NOT proceed, as it will cause an eruption of the Fallopian tube, excessive bleeding leading to dangerous and, if not immediately treated, subsequent death, to the pregnant woman.

Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy may not always be readily noticeable, at first, however, some women have typical early signs and symptoms of pregnancy, most typically a missed period, tenderness or soreness in the breasts, nausea and possibly vomiting, as well as a change in appetite, and occasionally becoming light-headed.

There may also be other, similarly typical, symptoms, such as light mood changes, weakness or headaches. If experiencing an ectopic pregnancy a pregnancy test will still show positive, the same as any other pregnancy, however, as the fertilized egg grows in the improper place, signs and symptoms that something is not typical may become more detectable.

There are individuals who are more at risk for, or more likely to experience, an ectopic pregnancy, and those are those who have had a prior ectopic pregnancy instance; prior infection, especially sexually transmitted infections (such as gonorrhea or chlamydia), may cause increased inflammation in the tubes and certain nearby organs, highly increasing the risk of an ectopic pregnancy; history of tubal surgery with possible residual scar tissue along the Fallopian tubes; certain types of birth control, primary IUDs, may rarely lead to tubal pregnancy (failed birth control)m unfortunately tubal ligation (or getting your “tubes-tied” may also, very rarely, lead to a pregnancy occurring outside of the uterus; fertility treatments, particularly IVF, have been linked to tubal pregnancies in rare instances; and also smoking increases the risk for ectopic pregnancy.

Hormonal imbalances or abnormal development of the fertilized egg also might play a role in the body’s development of ectopic pregnancies.

Very commonly the very first warning sign of an ectopic pregnancy are light vaginal bleeding, accompanied by pelvic or lower abdominal pain. Though unusual, the woman may also experience shoulder pain or an urge to have a bowel movement, depending specifically on if and where bleeding occurs and collects within the Fallopian tube, and which nerves are impinged upon during this occurrence, becoming irritated.

If the fertilized egg grows without being suspected it can lead to the rupture of the Fallopian tube, followed by very heavy bleeding inside the abdomen, with life-threatening symptoms including fainting and shock following this happening.

Visit your OB/GYN when suspecting pregnancy, and seek urgent medical care if you have any signs or symptoms of ectopic pregnancy.

Seek emergency medical help if you have specific signs or symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy, including:

• Abdominal cramping during early pregnancy.

• Heavy vaginal bleeding.

• Excessive nausea or vomiting.

• Extreme dizziness.

• Any other symptoms that do not feel typical for you if you have been pregnant before or according to a medical provider, if this is your first pregnancy.

Betty Cohn is a retired registered nurse with 35 years of experience in the medical field in a variety of roles. She will write a semi-monthly column about medical-related topics and welcomes questions and suggestions at