Normally a fertilized egg attaches itself to the uterus and begins to develop. Sometimes because of some sort of damage to the fallopian tubes, the egg may not travel to the uterus, instead implanting somewhere else, usually within the tube itself. This type of pregnancy is known as an ectopic pregnancy, or a tubal pregnancy. The fertilized egg has no chance of survival however, and the pregnancy must be ended right away to avoid harm. If an ectopic pregnancy is allowed to progress the fallopian tube can become damaged and burst, leading to heavy bleeding and even death.
In the early stages of pregnancy a woman with an ectopic pregnancy will probably not notice anything is wrong. She may experience the same typical signs of pregnancy — nausea, fatigue, bloating, tender breasts and a missed period. There will be noticeable symptoms of a progressing ectopic pregnancy. These include:
- Vaginal bleeding, probably light at first
- Pain in the abdomen or pelvic area that worsens with movement, it may start as a sharp pain in one area and then spread, this pain may be noticed as early as six weeks after a missed period
- Pain during intercourse
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, signs of shock or fainting, all due to internal bleeding
- Pain in the shoulder, caused by internal bleeding that has irritated the diaphragm
It is difficult to recognize an ectopic pregnancy early on and unfortunately if it is able to progress it can become a medical emergency. This is why it is very important to see your health care provider as soon as you notice any vaginal bleeding, lower abdominal pains or cramping. These symptoms may be also indicate a miscarriage, or they may not be anything to worry about. Light vaginal bleeding may simply be implantation bleeding. If the symptoms of internal bleeding or a damaged tube occur, such as feeling dizzy or even fainting, heavy vaginal bleeding or severe pain in the abdomen or shoulder, call for emergency medical attention.
Treating an Ectopic Pregnancy
If diagnosed early on an ectopic pregnancy can be ended with medication. Shots of methotrexate are often given. Methotrexate does come with side effects so it is important to talk to your doctor about what to expect. A follow-up will also be necessary to make sure the ectopic pregnancy was taken care of. If allowed to progress, surgery is necessary and is an effective way to make sure the ectopic pregnancy is dealt with.
Understanding the symptoms of a progressing ectopic pregnancy is so important for pregnant women. This health condition is extremely serious and seeking medical care as soon as possible can prevent more serious problems from occurring. While some of the symptoms, particularly if they are mild, may not be a sign of a problem, it is always best to play it safe and at least talk to your doctor about what you are experiencing.
WebMD, Ectopic Pregnancy. https://www.webmd.com/baby/tc/ectopic-pregnancy-topic-overview
Mayo Clinic. Ectopic Pregnancy Symptoms. https://www.mayoclinic.com/health/ectopic-pregnancy/DS00622/DSECTION=symptoms