Common ectopic pregnancy symptoms are abnormal vaginal bleeding and cramps. In advanced stages (6-16 weeks) the growing fetus can rupture surrounding structures causing severe lower abdominal pain.
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants in a location other than the wall of the uterus. This location is usually the fallopian tubes (tubal pregnancy), but can also occur at the ovary, abdomen, or cervix.
One in every 150 pregnancies is ectopic. Risk factors are disorders of the fallopian tubes or other disorders which would narrow or block the fallopian tubes (including sterilization procedures).
Prior ectopic pregnancies increase the likelihood that a woman will encounter another in future pregnancies.
Ectopic pregnancy symptoms:
- vaginal bleeding
- uterine cramps
- severe pain in lower abdomen (if structures rupture)
Diagnosis of an ectopic pregnancy is typically performed following a pregnancy test by ultrasonography. If the uterus does not contain the fetus than it must be located and an ectopic pregnancy is confirmed.
Imaging with a laparoscope through a small incision in the abdomen allows visualization of the ectopic pregnancy.
Ectopic pregnancies must be ended. The fetus has no chance for survival and the health of the woman is at great risk.
Treatment is typically with surgical removal of the fetus and placental tissues. The drug methotrexate may also be used to shrink and ablate the ectopic pregnancy.