Ectopic pregnancy, also known as tubal pregnancy, is a complication of pregnancy in which the embryo attaches outside the uterus. Some ectopic pregnancy symptoms and treatment are outlined below.
Why does an ectopic pregnancy happen?
Medical professionals don’t really know why an ectopic pregnancy happens. The egg normally spends about five days travelling down the tube from the ovary to your uterus, where it implants and begins to develop. If you have an ectopic pregnancy, this doesn’t happen, and your pregnancy begins to develop in the tube. This may happen due to damage to your fallopian tube, which causes your tube to be too narrow for the egg to reach its destination.
Recognising an ectopic pregnancy is not easy. It may feel like period pains. Symptoms may come and go, or you may not even feel any symptoms during the early stages.
Ectopic pregnancy symptoms:
- Unusual vaginal bleeding, different from your normal period. It may be lighter, and brighter, or darker red than usual, or watery. Some women describe it as looking like prune juice.
- Mild to severe one-sided pain in your lower abdomen or pelvis, which may come on gradually or suddenly. If you experience this and you think you may be pregnant, see your doctor. If your ectopic pregnancy is not diagnosed early, your tube may be stretched by your growing embryo, and rupture.
This will usually cause internal bleeding, and the following signs and symptoms:
- Sweating and feeling light-headed, faint or dizzy.
- Diarrhoea or pain when you poo.
- Shock, or collapsing.
- Shoulder-tip pain, which may be worse when you lie down. It is not known exactly why shoulder tip pain occurs, but it usually occurs when you are lying down and is a sign that the ectopic pregnancy is causing internal bleeding.
What to do
See your doctor immediately, or go to hospital. If your fallopian tube has ruptured, you’ll go straight to surgery. But in most cases, ectopic pregnancies are caught early enough for tests to be done and surgery to be planned.
Ectopic pregnancy treatment
If an ectopic pregnancy is discovered during the examination, the surgeon will remove the pregnancy and the fallopian tube (salpingectomy). Removing the affected tube decreases your risk of having another ectopic pregnancy. It is possible to remove the ectopic pregnancy from your tube and preserve the fallopian tube if it hasn’t already ruptured, or become severely damaged. This may be preferred if you only have one tube, or if your other fallopian tube doesn’t look healthy.
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