An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus. The most common place for the ectopic pregnancy to occur is in the fallopian tubes. That's why ectopic pregnancy is often referred to as a tubal pregnancy. As pregnancy progresses there is no room for it to grow in the tube. Eventually, the fallopian tube will rupture and place the woman at a serious risk for hemorrhaging and death. Risks of a tubal pregnancy include a Pelvic inflammatory disease, Chlamydia. Gonorrhea, Endometriosis, and an IUD.
The first signs of an ectopic pregnancy may be bleeding, pelvic pain, shoulder or neck pain (due to pressure on the nerve affecting the shoulder. Dizziness and /or fainting may be a serious symptom of an ectopic pregnancy and internal bleeding.
This is why it is so important to see a medical provider as soon as a pregnancy is suspected. An ultrasound will reveal a gestational sac as early as 4 weeks. If there is no intrauterine pregnancy identified within 6 weeks from the last menstrual period, a blood test called Beta HCG may be performed to confirm the gestational age and suggest a risk for an ectopic pregnancy. If diagnosed early, an ectopic pregnancy can be treated by an injection of Methotrexate. If the pregnancy is further along, you may require an emergency surgery to remove the pregnancy. In some cases, the fallopian tube would also be removed if repair is not possible.
Patient Resource: Ectopic Pregnancy Brochure