What Is an Ectopic Pregnancy?

January 29, 2019

In order for a woman to get pregnant, the ovary has to release an egg into the fallopian tube. Here, it stays for around 24 hours, waiting to come into contact with sperm. If the egg is fertilized, it stays in the fallopian tube for three to four days before moving to the uterus. Once in the uterus, it attaches to the lining, continuing to grow until a baby is born.

In some cases, however, the fertilized egg doesn’t implant in the uterus, and instead implants in the fallopian tube or somewhere in the abdomen. When this occurs, it is called an ectopic pregnancy.

Signs and Symptoms of an Ectopic Pregnancy

An ectopic pregnancy typically happens during the first four weeks of pregnancy. Because an ectopic pregnancy may not feel like anything out of the ordinary, many women don’t even know they are experiencing symptoms.

Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy often include regular pregnancy symptoms such as a missed menstrual period, tenderness in the breasts, nausea, and fatigue.

Women who have an ectopic pregnancy may also experience these symptoms:

– Vaginal bleeding
– Pelvic pain
– Sharp abdominal crampings
– Vomiting
– Pain on one side of the body
– Dizziness, weakness
– Pain in the shoulder, neck, or rectum

Fallopian Tube Rupture

A potentially dangerous symptom of an ectopic pregnancy is a fallopian tube rupture. If this occurs, you may experience a sudden bout of severe pain and bleeding. If you experience these symptoms, it’s important to call your doctor right away.

Ectopic Pregnancy Causes

Sometimes an ectopic pregnancy occurs for no apparent reason. A woman may unknowingly have a damaged fallopian tube that prevents the fertilized egg from traveling to the uterus.

While the causes of an ectopic pregnancy aren’t always known, women are more likely to experience an ectopic pregnancy if they meet any of the following criteria:

– Are 35 or older
– Have a history of ectopic pregnancy
– Have pelvic inflammatory disease
– Have sexually-transmitted diseases or infections
– Have scarring from a previous pelvic surgery
– Conceived after a tubal ligation or while an IUD was in place
– Use or have used treatments for infertility such as IVF
– Use or have used fertility drugs
– Are smokers

How Is an Ectopic Pregnancy Diagnosed?

If your doctor suspects you may be experiencing an ectopic pregnancy, they will likely perform a series of tests including a pregnancy test and a pelvic exam. They may also perform an ultrasound to view the condition of your uterus and fallopian tubes.

Ectopic Pregnancy Treatment

If your doctor confirms you have an ectopic pregnancy, they will help determine the best treatment. Your doctor will factor in your current medical condition, medical history, and what your future pregnancy plans are.

Unfortunately, because a fertilized egg can’t survive out of the uterus, the tissue needs to be removed to prevent you from experiencing serious complications. The two methods of treatment for ectopic pregnancies include:


If you are experiencing an ectopic pregnancy that is not far along and your fallopian tube hasn’t ruptured, your doctor can give you an injection of methotrexate. This medication stops the cells from growing and allows them to simply be absorbed into your body.


Sometimes, surgery is required to treat an ectopic pregnancy. The most common surgery is a laparoscopy. During this procedure, your doctor will make a very small incision in your lower abdomen and insert a thin, flexible instrument to remove the ectopic pregnancy.

If your fallopian tube sustained damage, your doctor may need to repair the tube. For more serious fallopian tube ruptures, emergency surgery known as a laparotomy may be necessary.

What About My Future?

If you have had an ectopic pregnancy you may be wondering about your future. Women who have a history of ectopic pregnancies have around a 60 percent chance of having a successful pregnancy in the future if the fallopian tubes are in place.

If you are trying to get pregnant in the future, don’t let this statistic discourage you – many women are still able to have healthy pregnancies following an ectopic pregnancy. Your doctor will be able to help you determine what the best course of action is for you and your growing family.

Call OB-GYN Women’s Centre of Lakewood Ranch for Care During Your Pregnancy and Beyond

At OB-GYN Women’s Center, we understand how scary the prospect of an ectopic pregnancy can be. If have any concerns about an ectopic pregnancy, getting pregnant again following an ectopic pregnancy, or another question, let us help you.

Contact us to schedule an appointment. We are happy to assist you.