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Ectopic Pregnancy (cont.)

What are the early warning signs and symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy?

Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are often confused with those of a miscarriage or pelvic inflammatory disease.

The most common symptoms of a tubal pregnancy are abdominal and pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding. A ruptured ectopic pregnancy is a true medical emergency. If you suspect you have a ruptured ectopic pregnancy, call 911. Common symptoms of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy include the following:

  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, almost passing out, loss of consciousness
  • Pale complexion, clammy-feeling skin
  • Sweaty
  • Fast heartbeat (over 100 beats per minute)
  • Abdominal or pelvic pain so severe that the woman can't stand up

When to seek medical care if you think you may have an ectopic pregnancy

If you are pregnant and experience any unusual abdominal pain or vaginal bleeding, contact a medical professional immediately. If your health care professional cannot be reached, or if your symptoms become worse, go quickly to a hospital's emergency department.

You must go to a hospital's emergency department for any of the following reasons:

  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Heavy vaginal bleeding
  • Passing out or loss of consciousness
  • Dizziness when standing
  • If you are unable to reach your health care professional in a timely manner

Is there a test that can diagnose an ectopic pregnancy?

Your health care provider or an emergency doctor will want to confirm pregnancy with an HGC test if this has not already been done.

  • If you have severe pain or heavy vaginal bleeding, IV lines will be started. Oxygen will be given, and blood tests will be ordered.
  • The doctor will perform a pelvic exam.
  • An ultrasound of your pelvis will probably be ordered to determine where the pregnancy is located. An ultrasound is a form of imaging using sound waves. Ultrasound is not painful. It is performed by placing a handheld device, or probe, which is connected to a television monitor, against the lower abdomen. A more sensitive ultrasound test is performed using a special probe inside the vagina (birth canal).
  • If the bleeding is severe or becomes life-threatening, you may be taken immediately to the operating room.
  • Sometimes the pregnancy has not developed sufficiently to be seen by ultrasound. If the bleeding and pain are not severe, the doctor may recommend you have special blood tests every 2-3 days to monitor the pregnancy until it has grown large enough so that it should be visible. Another ultrasound will likely be performed at that time to make sure the pregnancy is in the uterus and developing normally.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 10/11/2016
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