An ectopic pregnancy happens when a fertilised egg embeds itself outside the womb, often in the fallopian tube, abdomen or cervix. Ectopic is in fact defined as “out of place”. This is a pretty common condition, which occurs in 1 in every 80 UK pregnancies. But, what exactly are ectopic pregnancy symptoms,Usually occurring in the first trimester, ectopic pregnancy symptoms include:
– Persistent and sharp pain in the lower abdomen. Often begins as a dull ache that becomes cramps and spasms.
– Vaginal bleeding (either bright or dark red in colour). The bleeding tends to stop and start and is commonly mistaken for a normal period.
– Vomiting and diarrhoea.
– Painful when going to the loo.
– Sometimes there is soreness in the shoulder, usually at its worst when lying down. This can signify that an ectopic pregnancy is causing internal bleeding, which aggravates a nerve in the diaphragm causing this referred pain.
– A serious symptom of an ectopic pregnancy can be “collapse”. This is when the fallopian tube ruptures creating internal bleeding. Feelings of faintness and nausea may be signs that “collapse” has occurred.
In terms of what causes an ectopic pregnancy it is often not very clear cut. However, there are conditions which increase the chances of it developing. These include:
– Infection in the womb, ovaries or fallopian tubes.
– Inflamed fallopian tubes
– Consumption of fertility medicine
– Conception occurring at an older age
– Previous history of ectopic pregnancy (you’re ten times more likely to have an ectopic pregnancy if you have had one before)
– Sexually transmitted diseases
– Abnormally-shaped fallopian tubes (caused naturally or after surgery)
To diagnose a suspected ectopic pregnancy, a blood test will be carried out in the early stages of the pregnancy. This will assess the levels of HCG (hormone produced during pregnancy) in the blood. If it is found that the hormone levels are below normal than the pregnancy will be deemed ectopic. An ultrasound of the vagina can then be done to confirm the location of the pregnancy. Sometimes laparoscopic surgery is required to confirm an ectopic pregnancy and then during this procedure the fallopian tube or embryo can be removed.
Regrettably with ectopic pregnancies, the baby’s death is unavoidable. A lot of embryos die without the need for medical intervention.
If diagnosis is early enough, the pregnancy can be brought to a safe end, for the mother (through medication or surgery). However, if the fallopian tube has already ruptured, emergency surgery is required and the effected fallopian tube may be removed.