Ectopic means “an abnormal place or position.” An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus. The most common location of an ectopic pregnancy is within a fallopian tube.
However, the egg could also implant in another area of the body, such as the ovary, abdominal cavity, or cervix. The danger of the fertilized egg implanting in a fallopian tube is that the tube cannot expand like the uterus to accommodate the growing embryo.
According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, ectopic pregnancies occur in about 1 out of every 50 pregnancies (20 out of 1,000). Ectopic pregnancies are dangerous and can be life-threatening to the mother if left undetected. It’s important to schedule an ultrasound to verify the status and location of the pregnancy.
How Do I Know if I’m at Risk of an Ectopic Pregnancy?
There are potential risk factors to know in order to determine if you are at an increased chance of developing an ectopic pregnancy. Those include:
- A previous ectopic pregnancy
- A history of pelvic inflammatory disease (PID)
- Surgery on your fallopian tubes
- A history of infertility
- History of IVF treatments
- Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs)
- An intrauterine device (IUD), a form of birth control, in place at the time of conception.
- A history of smoking
If you have had a positive pregnancy test, an ultrasound is the best way to confirm whether or not your pregnancy is actually ectopic.
What Are the Symptoms of an Ectopic Pregnancy?
Although some women never show any symptoms, signs of an ectopic pregnancy usually occur between 4-12 weeks gestation.
The earliest warning signs of ectopic pregnancy are light vaginal bleeding and pelvic pain. Abdominal pain and shoulder pain are also possibilities. This bodily pain is caused by blood leaking from the fallopian tube into the abdomen and irritating the nerves responsible for the involuntary muscles that move in your diaphragm.
If the fertilized egg continues to grow undetected, it has the potential to rupture the fallopian tube and cause heavy bleeding, extreme lightheadedness, and shock.
If you experience any of these symptoms, you should seek emergency care. Even if you do not match any of the risk factors above that increase your risk of an ectopic pregnancy, it is best to confirm a viable, intrauterine pregnancy as soon as possible so you can reduce your risk of complications.
Schedule a free appointment for a confidential pregnancy test and ultrasound at Alpha Center today!