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Written by: Dr. Amy Beckley, PhD, Founder and Inventor of the Proov test — the first and only FDA-cleared test to confirm successful ovulation at home.
Written on 12/22/20
Trigger warning: This blog discusses early pregnancy loss.
An ectopic pregnancy, also called an extrauterine pregnancy, occurs when an embryo attaches and grows outside the uterus. They are pretty rare, occurring in about 1 in 50 pregnancies in the United States, yet they can be deadly and it is extremely important to raise awareness and make sure you know how to recognize the signs and symptoms.
In 90% of ectopic pregnancy cases the embryo lodges in the fallopian tubes. As the pregnancy progresses it may cause the rupture of the tube, which in turn may cause internal bleeding which is a life threatening emergency.
An ectopic pregnancy can’t be saved and has to be removed either by using medication (if it hasn’t ruptured) or through surgery (if the tube burst). While it is sometimes referred to as a tubal pregnancy, an ectopic pregnancy may also implant in the cervix, on one of the ovaries, or anywhere else in the abdominal cavity.
An ectopic pregnancy, also called an extrauterine pregnancy, occurs when an embryo attaches and grows outside the uterus.
We don’t always know what causes an ectopic pregnancy but we do know some women are more at risk than others.
The main causes of ectopic pregnancy are:
Other factors that increase the risk of getting an ectopic pregnancy are:
An ectopic pregnancy isn’t viable. An embryo cannot survive outside of the uterus because the tissues outside the uterus aren’t able to provide the blood supply and necessary support for a fetus to grow and survive.
There are several possible outcomes:
An embryo cannot survive outside of the uterus because the tissues outside the uterus aren’t able to provide the blood supply and necessary support for a fetus to grow and survive.
An ectopic pregnancy doesn’t always cause any symptoms and is sometimes discovered at a routine pregnancy scan. But many women may experience common pregnancy symptoms like a missed period, nausea, sore breasts, or a positive pregnancy test.
Yet there are some warning signs that might appear weeks before any potential symptoms and that might raise suspicion about an ectopic pregnancy. These signs should encourage further medical investigation:
Typical symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy usually appear between 6 and 8 weeks of gestation, under the form of:
Sometimes, a misdiagnosed tubal pregnancy may grow large enough to make the fallopian tube burst. When this happens the symptoms are quite strong and pretty hard to miss:
If you experience this kind of symptoms — especially if you missed your period but even in the absence of a positive pregnancy test — you should call an ambulance or go to the nearest emergency room for immediate assessment.
Typical symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy usually appear between 6 and 10 weeks of gestation.
While ectopic pregnancies cannot be prevented, there are certain things you can make sure of in order to try and minimize the risk, including:
Pregnancy loss of any kind is a devastating experience. The good news is that with today’s advancement in medicine and ultrasound technology, most ectopic pregnancies are detected in their early stages and most women experiencing them do not need surgery.
Also, we are very lucky to have access to modern methods of cycle monitoring at home. We can use ovulation strips to check our LH surge and predict when ovulation is going to occur. We can us PdG tests to monitor levels during the luteal phase. PdG is a progesterone metabolite. Low PdG levels or ovulatory disorders can make it more difficult to successfully conceive.
Knowledge is power and getting educated about the risks, signs, and symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy may help you detect a potential issue in its early stages.