Pregnancy is a normal and healthy occurrence in a woman’s life but it is known that there are risks that go along with pregnancy and childbirth. The majority of pregnancies are typical but there are complications that could occur such as bleeding, preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, miscarriage, and more. This is one of the reasons why attending regularly scheduled OBGYN appointments throughout pregnancy is important. A trained OBGYN medical professional will have knowledge of pregnancy risks and complications, and be able to monitor you for any early signs of them. One of the pregnancy risks you may have heard of but don’t know much about is referred to as an ectopic pregnancy. Let’s dive into what this condition is and what you need to know about it.
What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?
An ectopic pregnancy happens when a fertilized egg grows outside the uterus instead of inside the uterus. This is dangerous because it is fatal to the fetus and can cause rupture and bleeding complications that could be life-threatening for the woman. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, more than 90% of ectopic pregnancies occur in one of the fallopian tubes1. An ectopic pregnancy can cause a fallopian tube to rupture and cause internal bleeding.
What are the Symptoms of an Ectopic Pregnancy?
At the beginning of an ectopic pregnancy, there will be typical pregnancy symptoms such as the absence of the menstrual cycle and tender breasts. Call your OBGYN at the first signs of pregnancy so that you can make an appointment to confirm pregnancy and talk with your healthcare provider. At this stage, it is impossible to determine if a pregnancy is normal or ectopic without a medical professional. As an ectopic pregnancy advances, symptoms will develop, such as severe pain in the abdomen, pelvis, shoulder, or back, abnormal bleeding, cramping, weakness, dizziness, and / or fainting. If there is a rupture it can cause internal bleeding that is life-threatening and requires emergency surgery.
What are the Risk Factors of Ectopic Pregnancy?
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, about one-half of all women who have an ectopic pregnancy do not have any known risk factors1 so women should notify their healthcare provider of any changes in their health. Some risk factors that may increase the risk of ectopic pregnancy include:
- Previous ectopic pregnancy
- Prior fallopian tube surgery
- Previous pelvic or abdominal surgery
- Sexually transmitted infections
- Pelvic inflammatory disease
- Cigarette smoking
- Being older than 35 years old
- History of infertility
- Use of assisted reproductive technology1
How is an Ectopic Pregnancy Treated?
There are only two treatment options when an ectopic pregnancy occurs which are medication or surgery. The treatment option that is best for you will depend on various factors which will have to be discussed with your healthcare provider. If you think you may have an ectopic pregnancy or have pregnancy concerns call your OBGYN healthcare provider.
- Ectopic pregnancy. ACOG. (n.d.). Retrieved August 10, 2022