An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg begins to grow outside of the uterus. Because the egg cannot attach to the lining of the uterus, it can’t survive and the pregnancy can’t continue normally.
“While an ectopic pregnancy can appear in other areas, it most commonly occurs in the fallopian tube,” said Dr. Hardison. “It’s also possible to have an ectopic pregnancy on the ovary or cervix. Often it occurs when there are problems with the fallopian tube itself.”
If an ectopic pregnancy is not treated, it can lead to life-threatening bleeding.
What You Need to Know About an Ectopic Pregnancy
What are ectopic pregnancy symptoms?
At first, women will have similar signs to that of a regular pregnancy—missing a period, nausea and tender breasts. However, early warning signs that this may be an ectopic pregnancy include:
- Pelvic pain
- Light vaginal bleeding
- Pelvic pain or discomfort
- Abdominal pain
These symptoms may vary depending upon the exact location of the pregnancy.
If allowed to grow, the egg can cause the fallopian tube to rupture, causing life-threatening heavy abdominal bleeding. These emergency symptoms include:
- Severe abdominal pain
Who is at greater risk for an ectopic pregnancy?
Those who are at greater risk for an ectopic pregnancy are those who:
- Have had sexually transmitted infections like gonorrhea and chlamydia
- Have had in vitro fertilization
- Have had fallopian tube surgery
- Have had a previous ectopic pregnancy
- Have been smoking just before getting pregnant
While it is rare to get pregnant while using an IUD or after a tubal ligation (“having tubes tied”), if you do, this raises your risk for an ectopic pregnancy.
Can you avoid an ectopic pregnancy?
You can’t entirely avoid an ectopic pregnancy, but there are a few things you can do to minimize your risk. These include:
- Reducing your chances of getting an STI by using a condom
- Quitting smoking, especially if you are trying to get pregnant
How is an ectopic pregnancy treated?
This can be treated with medication that will dissolve the existing cells or with a laparoscopic procedure that will remove the ectopic pregnancy.
Pregnancy Loss Support Groups
There are no words to adequately describe the pain and devastation that occurs during a pregnancy loss. We want to assure you that we will be there for you to provide the compassionate care that you need during this difficult time. We encourage you to seek help from those around you, whether it’s through friends, family, counselors or religious leaders.
If you’d like to find a local pregnancy loss support group, please speak with one of us and we will assist you.
See why we’ve been the leading gynecologists in Chapel Hill, NC for more than 40 years
An ectopic pregnancy is a devastating diagnosis, and we understand that it requires the highest level of exceptional care. We’re pleased to offer the extensive resources found at larger medical centers with the one-on-one, individualized care that is often found at smaller practices.
If you have had any of the symptoms above and you suspect you may have an ectopic pregnancy, please schedule an appointment with us.
For more than 40 years, Chapel Hill OBGYN has served women in the Triangle area, sharing the joy of little miracles and supporting them during challenges. Our board-certified physicians and certified nurse midwives bring together the personal experience and convenience of a private practice with the state-of-the-art resources found at larger organizations. To schedule an appointment, please contact us for more information.