Ectopic Pregnancy Symptoms, Causes, and Treatments

Ectopic pregnancy, also referred to as a tubal pregnancy, occurs when a fertilized egg implants somewhere other than the endometrial lining of the uterus. It is believed that the egg, once fertilized, is slowed or passage to the uterus blocked. Therefore, the fertilized ovum implants prior to reaching the uterus. Implantation can occur in the fallopian tubes, abdomen, ovaries, or other areas outside of the uterus.

Ectopic Pregnancy Symptoms

Below is a list of symptoms of ectopic pregnancy:

  • sharp, one sided pain
  • cramping on one side
  • low abdominal pain
  • low back pain
  • bleeding
  • dizziness
  • nausea
  • shoulder pain

Ectopic Pregnancy Causes

Several factors can contribute to your chances of having an ectopic pregnancy. Pelvic Inflammatory Disease, PID, is one of the leading contributing factors to developing an ectopic pregnancy. Other possible causes of ectopic pregnancy include previous tubal surgery (including a tubal ligation), endometriosis, IUD, progesterone only birth control pills, congenital abnormalities of the fallopian tubes, and smoking. Women who’s mothers took the medication DES (diethlystilbestol) during pregnancy are also at greater risk for developing an ectopic pregnancy.

Diagnosing an Ectopic Pregnancy

Your doctor will likely run blood tests including HCG levels and may perform an ultrasound as well. HCG levels are lower and do not double within 48-72 hours as they would during a normal pregnancy. HCG levels may sometimes rise, but they will rise very slowly. Ultrasound may be helpful in determining the location of pregnancy.

Ectopic Pregnancy Treatment

If the ectopic pregnancy has not ruptured and is below 3.5 cm in size the drug methotrexate may be used. Methotrexate is given by injection and can be used to induce miscarriage. Methotrexate works by stopping the growth of rapidly dividing cells such as in pregnancy.

If there is a risk of rupture, surgery will be needed. A laparotomy is usually performed. This involved cutting a small incision into the abdomen and removing the fertilized egg and tissue.

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