Womens Health

What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?

An ectopic pregnancy is one that cannot make it to full term as a result of the location of the baby's development. The pregnancy develops outside of the woman's uterus because the fertilized egg from the ovary does not implant itself as it should, normally, in the uterus. The most common site for the ectopic pregnancy is in the fallopian tubes, which is called a tubal pregnancy. However, these pregnancies can also occur on the outside of the uterus, on the ovaries, or attached to the bowel.

Causes of Ectopic Pregnancies

There is an increased chance that you might have an ectopic pregnancy if you have experienced certain conditions. If you've had tub infections (salpingitis) such as a pelvic inflammatory disease, chlamydia, or gonorrhea, you are more likely. Similarly, if you've had surgery inside the abdomen, particularly if the surgery involved the fallopian tubes, ovaries, uterus, lower abdomen or bowels, you are at higher risk. You may be at risk if you were using fertility medications at the time of conception, if you have a past history that includes tubal pregnancies, or if you became pregnant while you were using an IUD. The reason for this last one is that normal pregnancies are highly unlikely if the IUD is in place. The IUD does not, in itself, increase your risk of having an ectopic pregnancy, but if you become pregnant while using one, chances are that the pregnancy is not developing inside the uterus.

Symptoms of an Ectopic Pregnancy

Very often, when someone is experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, they may think that they are having a miscarriage. Symptoms include abdominal and pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding. An ectopic pregnancy becomes a real emergency if you have a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. You need to call 911 in this type of situation, which is usually indicated with lightheadedness and dizziness, pale complexion, clammy-feeling skin, sweating, a fast heartbeat over 100 beats per minute, and abdominal or pelvic pain that is severe enough to keep you from standing.

How to Know When To Seek Help

Since an ectopic pregnancy often feels like a miscarriage, it's hard to know when to seek help. In general, if you are pregnant and experiencing unusual abdominal pain or vaginal bleeding, you should contact your doctor. Whether it's a miscarriage or an ectopic pregnancy, they'll want to examine you and see what is going on. If you can't reach your doctor, or if your symptoms become more severe, you should go to the hospital and check into the emergency room. You should certainly go to the emergency room directly if you have severe stomach pains, heavy vaginal bleeding, dizziness when standing, and if you are passing out or falling down.

If you are pregnant, hoping to become pregnant, or have many of the risk factors for ectopic pregnancies, it is certainly important to know all of the facts about it. You should be aware of this possibility and look for warning signs. Hopefully, you won't experience a pregnancy of this sort, but it's always important to be educated and to know what to expect when a situation arises.


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