ectopic pregnancy symptoms

An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the embryo attaches outside the uterus, usually in the Fallopian tubes. And why is it important to watch out for ectopic pregnancy symptoms?

Well, it is a very rare condition that usually leads to a miscarriage during the first trimester of pregnancy. Also called eccesys or tubal pregnancy, it can be very dangerous for a woman, which is why you need to pay attention to the symptoms.

 

Ectopic pregnancy symptoms to watch out for

And why else do we need to watch out for ectopic pregnancy symptoms? Well, an ectopic pregnancy could lead to infertility or even death if not treated soon. Fortunately, there is a good prognosis in Western countries thanks to the easy access to medical treatment. Between 2003 and 2005, there were only 10 fatal cases of 32.100 ectopic pregnancies in the UK. Nonetheless, and since early diagnosis is extremely important to avoid unwanted consequences, all future mummies need to pay a lot of attention to the ectopic pregnancy symptoms.

Symptoms of ectopic pregnancy include:

  • A sharp pain in the lower abdomen that can worsen with movement. It usually starts on one side to later spread to the pelvis. Women can also feel pain when urinating, defecating or coughing.
  • Vaginal bleeding: you will distinguish it from the regular spotting because of its proportions: The vaginal bleeding that can be considered one of the ectopic pregnancy symptoms is severe.
  • Fainting sensation or nausea: This is one of the signs of ectopic pregnancy most difficult to detect, since it can easily be confused with the morning sickness of a normal pregnancy.
  • Fainting or weakness: it can increase if the Fallopian tube ruptures, and come together with weak and fast heartbeat or cold skin.
  • Pain in the lower part of the back.
  • Shoulder pain: The bleeding inflames the diaphragm and this translates in pain in the shoulder area.

Ectopic pregnancy symptoms are not much different from the symptoms of a miscarriage. In the early stages of pregnancy, ectopic pregnancy symptoms also include fatigue, tender breasts or increased urination, which are also early signs of a normal pregnancy. However, light spotting and abdominal or pelvic pain 6 to 8 weeks after a missed period can be early ectopic pregnancy symptoms, so watch out! 

 

How exactly does it happen?

As it has been stated before, an ectopic pregnancy happens when the embryo, that is, the fertilised egg, is implanted outside of the uterus. Most of the times, the embryo stays in the Fallopian tubes, but can also attach to one of the ovaries, the cervix, directly in the abdomen or even on a scar of a previous C-section

Once implanted, the embryo keeps developing, which also means it keeps growing, and here comes the danger: it could lead to the rupture of the Fallopian tube, which will cause the ectopic pregnancy symptoms explained before, like the intense abdominal pain and the heavy vaginal bleeding. If the Fallopian tube ruptures, it could be lost, causing infertility and even death.

 

And who could suffer an ectopic pregnancy?

Actually, all women can be susceptible of suffering this condition, which makes watching out for ectopic pregnancy symptoms even more important. However, there are also some risk factors that need to be considered:

  • Damaged Fallopian tubes, either as a result of a congenital disease or previous pelvic surgery, which would have increased the amount of scar tissue.
  • A majority of the reported cases of ectopic pregnancy are from women between 35 and 44 years old, so age is a clear risk factor.
  • A previous infection in the reproductive system called pelvic inflammatory disease, usually caused by untreated STDs like chlamydia or gonorrhoea. The risk is due to the increase of scar tissue in the Fallopian tubes.
  • Use of IUD increases to 10-25% the chances of suffering an ectopic pregnancy.
  • Endometriosis, a disease where the tissue that covers the inside of the uterus (called endometrium) grows outside of it.
  • A tubal ligation reversal or unsuccessful tubal ligation.
  • Smoking: Nicotine affects the cilia inside the Fallopian tubes. The cilia are organelles that look like very small hairs and that are in charge of helping the embryo arrive to the uterus.

 

What to do after detecting ectopic pregnancy symptoms

Due to the risks associated with this condition, any pregnant woman who detects the symptoms needs to go straight to the hospital. The prognosis for the baby is not good, and sadly, most ectopic pregnancies end in a miscarriage. Treatment can vary depending on each individual case, but the doctor could administrate methotrexate, a drug that stops the growth of the placenta cells and thus interrupts the pregnancy. Another option would be a laparoscopy, a surgical procedure that will remove the embryo and fix the damaged caused in the tubes if possible. If the ectopic pregnancy isn’t detected soon enough and the Fallopian tube ruptures, the woman will most probably need emergency surgery to repair the damage. Unfortunately, if it comes to this, repairing the area won’t be possible sometimes, and the tube or even the ovary will have to be removed in that case.