What would happen if you became pregnant in your fallopian tubes?
Ectopic means "out of place." In an ectopic pregnancy, a fertilized egg has implanted outside the uterus. The egg settles in the fallopian tubes more than 95% of the time. This is why ectopic pregnancies are commonly called "tubal pregnancies." The egg can also implant in the ovary, abdomen, or the cervix, so you may see these referred to as cervical or abdominal pregnancies.
None of these areas has as much space or nurturing tissue as a uterus for a pregnancy to develop. As the fetus grows, it will eventually burst the organ that contains it. This can cause severe bleeding and endanger the mother's life. A classical ectopic pregnancy never develops into a live birth.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms?
Ectopic pregnancy can be difficult to diagnose because symptoms often mirror those of a normal early pregnancy. These can include missed periods, breast tenderness, nausea, vomiting, or frequent urination.
Pain is usually the first red flag. You might feel pain in your pelvis, abdomen, or, in extreme cases, even your shoulder or neck (if blood from a ruptured ectopic pregnancy builds up and irritates certain nerves). Most women describe the pain as sharp and stabbing. It may concentrate on one side of the pelvis, and it may come and go or vary in intensity.
Any of the following additional symptoms can suggest an ectopic pregnancy:
* vaginal spotting or bleeding * dizziness or fainting (caused by blood loss) * low blood pressure (also caused by blood loss) * lower back pain
What Causes an Ectopic Pregnancy?
An ectopic pregnancy results from a fertilized egg's inability to work its way quickly enough down the fallopian tube into the uterus. An infection or inflammation of the tube may have partially or entirely blocked it. Pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) is the most common of these infections.
Endometriosis (when cells from the lining of the uterus detach and grow elsewhere in the body) or scar tissue from previous abdominal or fallopian surgeries can also cause blockages. More rarely, birth defects or abnormal growths can alter the shape of the tube and disrupt the egg's progress.
How Is It Diagnosed?
A blood/serum pregnancy test is usuallly done since it is more sensitive and more accurate than a unine pregnancy test. Then an ultrasound should be done to see if they can locate the pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancy can be confused with ovarian cysts, ovarian torsion, appendcitis, salpingitis (PID), constipation, endometriosis, etc. Often the only way to be 100% sure is to look inside with a laparoscope.