Doctor's Notes on Ectopic Pregnancy
An ectopic pregnancy (also termed tubal pregnancy) is a pregnancy that develops outside of the uterus. This occurs when the fertilized egg from the ovary does not reach or implant itself in the uterus. The products of this conception in most instances do not survive. The most common signs and symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are abdominal and/or pelvic pain and vaginal bleeding. They usually occur in the first 5-10 weeks of pregnancy. A ruptured ectopic pregnancy is a medical emergency; signs and symptoms of a ruptured ectopic pregnancy include lightheadedness/dizzy, pale complexion, clammy – feeling skin, sweaty, fast heartbeats and severe abdominal pain and/or pelvic pain so intense that the pregnant woman can’t stand up to walk.
The cause of ectopic pregnancy is when the fertilized egg lodges in the fallopian tube or some other location instead of reaching the uterus where it is supposed implant. A ruptured ectopic pregnancy may cause the woman to bleed into the abdomen; the blood loss that enters the abdomen cause the more intense signs and symptoms; the amount of blood loss can be life – threatening. A ruptured ectopic pregnancy is a medical emergency; if it is suspected, call 911
(Tubal Pregnancy) Symptoms
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
- Fast heartbeat (over 100 beats per minute)
- Abdominal or pelvic pain so severe that the woman can't stand up
(Tubal Pregnancy) Causes
Ectopic or tubal pregnancy is caused when a fertilized egg lodges in a Fallopian tube or other location instead of continuing its journey to the uterus, where it is supposed to implant. The egg can become stuck when a Fallopian tube is damaged, scarred, or distorted.
A missed menstrual period is often the first recognizable sign of a possible pregnancy, but there are other signs and symptoms of early pregnancy as well. Not all women have all symptoms or experience them in the same way. The most common first trimester symptoms are discussed in the following slides.
Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.