Ectopic Pregnancy Symptoms
An ectopic pregnancy is when a fertilized egg implants itself outside of the uterus. Most cases of ectopic pregnancy occur in the fallopian tube, but some eggs attach to an organ or other internal structure. Ectopic pregnancy is considered rare, there are twenty thousand to two hundred thousand cases reported in the United States every year. It is most likely to affect women between the ages of thirty-five and forty-four, but it can also happen to women older or younger.
Women who have experienced a previous ectopic pregnancy, a pelvic or abdominal surgery, multiple induced abortions, or Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) are at a higher risk of having an ectopic pregnancy. Other risk factors that increase the likelihood of having an ectopic pregnancy include getting pregnant while using an IUD, conceiving after a tubal litigation, undergoing fertility treatments, using fertility medications, endometriosis, and smoking.
Immediate medical treatment is needed as a fertilized egg cannot survive outside of the uterus and if left to grow, can damage nearby organs and cause enough blood loss to be life threatening. If caught in the early stages, it is possible that medication could be enough. However, if not treated until the late stages of gestation, surgery is necessary.
Signs of Ectopic Pregnancy
If a woman is having symptoms that they are experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, they should go to their gynecologist right away. There are a series of tests and procedures that can be done to determine the health of the pregnancy. Some of the tests and procedures can include a pelvic exam, a pelvic ultrasound, and blood tests.
A doctor will perform a pelvic exam as a standard procedure of all pregnant women. With an ectopic pregnancy, the doctor can usually detect abnormalities during the exam such as tenderness in the uterus or fallopian tubes, a smaller uterus than expected during a pregnancy, or a mass in the pelvic region. These abnormalities can be a sign of an ectopic pregnancy and will create a red flag with the doctor to do different tests or exams to determine the cause.
The doctor will send a pregnant woman to an ultrasound technician to determine what is happening in the uterus and check to make sure everything is going alright. The most accurate is a transvaginal ultrasound do determine where the pregnancy is. A pregnancy in the uterus is visible six weeks after conception. If one is not found that is a sign that there is an ectopic pregnancy. The next step is taking two or more blood tests at least forty-eight hours apart. The blood tests measure the amount of human chorionic
The next step is taking two or more blood tests at least forty-eight hours apart. The blood tests measure the amount of human chorionic gonadotropin, or hCG which is a hormone produced during pregnancy. hCG is made by cells made in the placenta, which sustains the egg after it has been fertilized and becomes attached to the uterine wall. During the first weeks of a normal pregnancy, hCG levels double every two days.
Low or sluggishly growing levels of hCG in the blood point towards an early abnormal pregnancy, such as an ectopic pregnancy or a miscarriage. An ectopic pregnancy is associated with low hCG levels because the egg does not attach to the uterine wall and cannot be nourished by the placenta. If hCG levels are unusually low, more testing is done to discover the reason. Low hCG levels are a big sign of ectopic pregnancy.
At times, a surgical procedure via laparoscopy is used to look for an ectopic pregnancy. After five weeks an ectopic pregnancy can typically be detected and treated with a laparoscope. However, laparoscopy is not used very often to diagnose an early ectopic pregnancy, because ultrasound and blood pregnancy tests are extremely accurate.
Symptoms of Ectopic Pregnancy
At first an ectopic pregnancy may cause no symptoms or signs. If a pregnancy test is taken, the results can be positive. However, if the pregnancy progresses without a doctor diagnosing the pregnancy as ectopic, problems will arise and can be life threatening.
Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy could be just like any other pregnancy at first with normal indicators such as morning sickness, changes in vaginal discharge, changes in breasts, tiredness, a missed period, etc. Nevertheless, an ectopic pregnancy does not have the capability to progress into a normal, healthy baby.
The signs and symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy classically start six to eight weeks after the last menstrual period, but they can arise later if the ectopic pregnancy is not situated in the Fallopian tube. While some signs and symptoms are more common such as nausea, tiredness, and breast tenderness, others are not so normal, like pain during intercourse, irregular vaginal bleeding or spotting, cramping, pain on one side or in the lower abdomen, a fast heartbeat, and passing out or experiencing pain while having a bowel movement or passing urine. These can be signs and symptoms that there is internal bleeding, which can be very bad and even life threatening.
In a worst case scenario, an ectopic pregnancy can become ruptured. A ruptured ectopic pregnancy happens when the fallopian tube gets torn or bursts and causes internal bleeding. Usually, there is extreme abdominal pain that is sometimes accompanied by vaginal bleeding. Having an ectopic pregnancy can be a life-threatening experience. Sudden, severe pain in the abdomen and pelvis, weakness, dizziness and/or fainting, and pain in the shoulder are all signs of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy and internal bleeding. If left untreated, this condition can lead to a blood transfusion, abdominal surgery, or even death.
In some cases, a woman experiencing an ectopic pregnancy can have miscarriage symptoms. Which includes abdominal pain, bleeding, and the absence of menstrual periods, which is also known as amenorrhea. So, it is important to note that having these symptoms does not always mean there is an ectopic pregnancy taking place. As previously stated, some women will experience no symptoms while others will experience severe symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy. A doctor is the best person to turn to for a medical diagnosis of the ailment.