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The Progression of an Ectopic Pregnancy

written by: BStone • edited by: BStone • updated: 5/11/2011

In the early stages an ectopic pregnancy may be perceived as a normal pregnancy. In later stages serious symptoms may occur if the pregnancy is not terminated.

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    An Egg Outside of the Uterus

    An ectopic pregnancy cannot be successful. In fact it has to be taken care of by a doctor to prevent serious harm to the mother. In the early ectopic pregnancy stages a woman may not be aware that there is a problem as symptoms will likely be the same as those that are experienced with a normal pregnancy. As the ectopic pregnancy progresses beyond the very early stages, or first several weeks, there will be very noticeable signs and a very serious threat to the mother. The earlier the problem is recognized, the better.

    An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg starts developing outside of the uterus. In most cases the egg settles in a fallopian tube (tubal pregnancy), although it can also try to develop in the abdominal area or an ovary. Although uncommon ( about one in fifty pregnancies are ectopic), ectopic pregnancies are a possible complication that women should be aware of. With medical care and early detection, serious problems can be prevented.

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    Early Stages

    In the early stages if a woman has an ectopic pregnancy she will probably have normal pregnancy symptoms — a missed period, morning sickness, frequent urination and tender breasts. At this point the fertilized egg has attached somewhere outside of the uterus. It can damage the fallopian tube or other organ and may cause vaginal bleeding or spotting and a sharp abdominal pain. Symptoms usually occur six to eight weeks into the pregnancy, during the middle of the first trimester. They may occur later however if the egg is somewhere aside from a fallopian tube.

    If detected early enough treatment may be simple. A drug called methotrexate is given to dissolve the egg.

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    Later Stages

    With an ectopic pregnancy an egg is never going to develop into a growing embryo, nor reach the normal later stages of pregnancy. What will happen if the complication is not recognized very early on is that it will be detected at a later stage when a woman has more serious symptoms and is facing a medical emergency. The fallopian tube or other pelvic organ can possibly rupture. There may be internal bleeding. A woman may experience severe pain, dizziness, lightheadedness and may go into shock. At this stage an ectopic pregnancy will require surgery.

    Today most women survive an ectopic pregnancy, even if a rupture occurs. Early detection is the best way to prevent serious damage to the fallopian tube or other organ, a medical emergency or death. In the very early ectopic pregnancy stages most women do not realize there is a problem. It is only in the later stages of this pregnancy complication that a woman may realize there is a problem. Understanding what an ectopic pregnancy is, that it can occur and what the signs are, women can seek medical attention as early as possible.

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    References

    Family Doctor. What is an ectopic pregnancy? http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/women/reproductive/gynecologic/896.html

    WebMD. Ectopic Pregnancy Symptoms. http://www.webmd.com/baby/tc/ectopic-pregnancy-symptoms

    Medicine Net. Ectopic Pregnancy. http://www.medicinenet.com/ectopic_pregnancy/article.htm

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