Every month you release one dominate egg from your ovaries, it travels through your fallopian tube to your uterus (or womb) where it awaits fertilization. You become pregnant when a single sperm penetrates the egg; the egg then attaches itself to the uterine wall, and fetal development begins.
An ectopic pregnancy is a serious complication and occurs when the fertilized egg attaches somewhere other than your uterus.
95% of ectopic pregnancies happen when the egg attaches to one of your fallopian tubes, also called a tubal pregnancy. Although rare, a fertilized egg can also attach itself to your cervix, ovary or even your abdomen. An egg that attaches itself to any area other than your womb cannot be carried to term.
In the early stages of an ectopic pregnancy, you may experience normal symptoms of pregnancy like a missed period, lower back pain, abnormal bleeding or spotting and mild cramps.
- Cramps and spotting
- Faintness or dizziness
- Intense abdominal pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Pain in your shoulder
An ectopic pregnancy can be life-threatening. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, you should see your obstetrician or OBGYN immediately. The earlier an ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed, the better.
Your OBGYN can determine if you have an ectopic pregnancy based on a blood test, ultrasound, and pelvic exam.
Unfortunately, the only option is termination. If the fetus continues to grow outside of the uterus it can rupture, cause internal bleeding and even death.
If an ectopic pregnancy is caught early enough, it may be treated with medication to stop the pregnancy. Otherwise, it will need to be surgically removed.
In the United States, these pregnancies occur at a rate of 19.7 cases per 1,000 pregnancies in North America and the leading cause of pregnancy-related deaths in the first trimester.
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