What is an ectopic pregnancy?
In a normal
pregnancy, a fertilized egg travels through a
fallopian tube to the
uterus. The egg attaches in the uterus and starts to
grow. But in an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg attaches (or implants)
someplace other than the uterus, most often in the fallopian tube. (This is why
it is sometimes called a tubal pregnancy.) In rare cases, the egg implants in
an ovary, the cervix, or the belly.
See a picture of an
ectopic pregnancy .
There is no way to save an ectopic pregnancy. It
cannot turn into a normal pregnancy. If the egg keeps growing in the fallopian
tube, it can damage or burst the tube and cause heavy bleeding that could be
deadly. If you have an ectopic pregnancy, you will need quick treatment to end
it before it causes dangerous problems.
What causes an ectopic pregnancy?
pregnancy is often caused by damage to the fallopian tubes. A fertilized egg
may have trouble passing through a damaged tube, causing the egg to implant and
grow in the tube.
Things that make you more likely to have
fallopian tube damage and an ectopic pregnancy include:
Some medical treatments can increase your risk of ectopic
pregnancy. These include:
What are the symptoms?
In the first few weeks, an
ectopic pregnancy usually causes the same symptoms as a normal pregnancy, such
as a missed menstrual period, fatigue, nausea, and sore breasts.
The key signs of an ectopic pregnancy are:
- Pelvic or belly pain. It may be sharp on one
side at first and then spread through your belly. It may be worse when you move
- Vaginal bleeding.
If you think you are pregnant and you have these
symptoms, see your doctor right away.
How is an ectopic pregnancy diagnosed?
test can show if you are pregnant. To find out if you have an ectopic
pregnancy, your doctor will likely do:
- A pelvic exam to check the size of your
uterus and feel for growths or tenderness in your belly.
- A blood
test that checks the level of the pregnancy hormone (hCG). This test is
repeated 2 days later. During early pregnancy, the level of this hormone
doubles every 2 days. Low levels suggest a problem, such as ectopic pregnancy.
ultrasound. This test can show pictures of what is
inside your belly. With ultrasound, a doctor can usually see a pregnancy in the
uterus 6 weeks after your last menstrual period.
How is it treated?