About 1 in every 50 pregnancies in the US is an ectopic pregnancy. People often have questions about the basics of ectopic pregnancies, why they occur, and options for treatment. Our goal is to help answer some of those questions.
An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg attaches anywhere other than the uterus, usually in the fallopian tube. Because the fertilized egg can only develop properly in the uterus, this type of pregnancy cannot result in a viable fetus. It can even be dangerous to your reproductive health, so it will need to be treated.
Usually, the egg gets stuck in the fallopian tube because of an issue such as inflammation or a misshapen tube. There is also some evidence that abnormal egg development or hormonal balances may also be a contributing factor.
There are many different risk factors which could increase your risk of ectopic pregnancy.
A few of the most common symptoms of ectopic pregnancy include heavy vaginal bleeding, sharp or stabbing pain in the abdomen, gastrointestinal symptoms, and dizziness, weakness or fainting.
These symptoms will get more severe as the egg develops. If untreated, it can cause the rupture of the fallopian tube, which is a life-threatening event that can cause shock and heavy internal abdominal bleeding.
In the vast majority of cases, the pregnancy will be removed by administering the medication methotrexate. This can resolve 90% of ectopic pregnancies. However, for more advanced cases where there are signs of tubal rupture, surgical removal will be recommended. In extremely rare cases, the “watch-and-wait” approach will be used if hCG levels are dropping and the embryo appears to already be miscarrying.
While they are rare, ectopic pregnancies can be life-threatening. If you notice any suspicious signs that may indicate the presence of an ectopic pregnancy, you should contact your OB/GYN right away for an appointment. If you don’t get treatment, you could develop life-threatening complications.