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What Is An Ectopic Pregnancy - Signs, Symptoms & Treatment

Being pregnant and able to bring a new life into this world is surely the greatest blessing. However, not all forms of pregnancy are blissful- one such being face-to-face with the hard truth when your doctor discloses that you are dealing with an ectopic pregnancy.

What is an ectopic pregnancy?

The ideal place for a fertilized egg to attach itself is inside the uterus. However, if it attaches itself somewhere outside the uterus, then this form of a pregnancy is referred to as an ectopic pregnancy. Most of the pregnancies of this kind are the ones where the fertilized egg attaches itself to the fallopian tube, thus this type of pregnancy is also sometimes known as a tubal pregnancy.

The fallopian tubes are not designed in a manner that can support a growing embryo, unlike that of the uterus. Hence, this form of a pregnancy requires immediate attention and treatment. This kind of pregnancy is not uncommon. It is found to be the case in 1 out of around 50 pregnancies.

Reasons behind ectopic pregnancy

Following are some of the reasons why an ectopic pregnancy might occur:

• Inflammation or infection of the fallopian tube that results in its blockage.

• If any surgical procedure has been performed on the fallopian tubes, then it could hamper the egg's movement.

• Scar tissue as a result of a previous tube infection can hinder the movement of the egg.

• Adhesions can be caused due to surgical procedures around the pelvic area or on the tubes in particular.

• Tube's shape can be abnormal due to a birth defect.

Read on to know who are prone to and some of the most likely causes of an ectopic pregnancy.

• Being diagnosed with ectopic pregnancy in the past increases your chances of falling pregnant in a similar manner again.

• When the woman reaches a maternal age of around 35 years and beyond.

• Those who have had a pelvic or abdominal surgery in the past.

• Women with pelvic inflammatory diseases

• When there have been several instances of induced abortions

• Women who smoke

• Falling pregnant after a tubal ligation.

• Falling pregnant when an IUD has been placed.

Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy

Apart from the typical symptoms that most of the pregnant women experience, there are some specific indications that your body signals when an ectopic pregnancy has occurred. When you come across any of the following symptoms, consult a doctor immediately, as it could indicate a potential ectopic pregnancy.

• Intense pain that is sharp in nature and appears to come and go in a stabbing form could indicate ectopic pregnancy. The pain may vary in intensity, as it comes and goes each time. Most of the time this kind of pain is felt around the pelvic and abdominal area. However, at times, the pain even shows up around the shoulder and neck region. This happens when there is a ruptured ectopic pregnancy and the blood from it has gathered under the diaphragm.

• Vaginal bleeding, which appears to be either heavier or lighter than what your normal periods tend to be.

• Sudden occurrence of gastrointestinal health issues

• Feeling tired and weak all the time. Series of dizziness or fainting.

It is advisable to reach out to your health-care provider immediately when you feel sharp, stabbing pain around your pelvic region along with heavy bleeding.

Diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy

When you approach your doctor with all or any of the above-mentioned symptoms, he or she is sure to perform certain examinations to diagnose the presence of an ectopic pregnancy. It begins with a basic pelvic exam to identify the location of the pain. Further, it is noted if there is tenderness in any particular region followed by an examination to identify a mass in the abdominal area.

A scan is conducted to check if there is a developing fetus in the uterus. The hCG and progesterone levels are measured - lower than expected could indicate a potential ectopic pregnancy. A procedure called culdocentesis might also be performed. In this procedure, a needle is inserted at the top of the vagina, which is the space behind the uterus and ahead of the rectum. If blood is found in this space, it could indicate a ruptured fallopian tube.


Treating an ectopic pregnancy involves the following:

• If the pregnancy has not progressed too far, then in most cases, methotrexate is given that saves the fallopian tube by allowing the body to absorb the pregnancy tissue.

• In case the fallopian tube has stretched to a great extent or has ruptured causing bleeding, then in such cases, it might need removal - completely or partially. This kind requires emergency surgery.

• Laparoscopic surgery is performed, wherein the surgeon can use a laparoscope to take out the ectopic pregnancy. This is performed under general anesthesia. This procedure also involves repairing or removing the fallopian tube being affected. In case laparoscopy is not successful, then laparotomy is done.

In some cases, the chances of normal pregnancy are reduced after an ectopic pregnancy. However, closely discussing this with your doctor can help you seek fertility treatment that can be favourable towards conceiving normally.

Read more about: prenatal pregnancy
Story first published: Thursday, April 26, 2018, 15:00 [IST]
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