How Dangerous is an Ectopic Pregnancy?

How Dangerous is an Ectopic Pregnancy?

An ectopic pregnancy is a medical condition that occurs in less than 2% of pregnancies in North America. Left unattended, an ectopic pregnancy is a serious medical condition and can be fatal. For women, it is important to know what an ectopic pregnancy is, what symptoms you may experience, what the treatment options are, and how an ectopic pregnancy may effect you emotionally.

What is An Ectopic pregnancy?

An ectopic pregnancy is one that is growing in the wrong place.  While normally the baby grows inside the uterus or womb, an ectopic pregnancy can be in the fallopian tube (where the egg and sperm meet), ovary, cervix, or the abdominal cavity (belly).  Ectopic pregnancies in the fallopian tube are much more common than in other locations and are known also as tubal pregnancy.

What are the Symptoms of an Ectopic Pregnancy?

You MAY have a tubal pregnancy if you are pregnant AND have one or more of the following:

  • Severe pain centered on one side of the abdomen or pelvis
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, or blackouts
  • Abnormally low blood pressure
  • The passage of tissue (not just blood clots) from your vagina, as in the case of miscarriage
  • Bleeding from the vagina may or may not be present

Is There A Test That Confirms that I’m Having an Ectopic Pregnancy?

The doctor may perform several tests to help confirm an ectopic pregnancy since many of the symptoms can be confusing.  You may have blood tests to determine quantitative hCG levels, and another pregnancy test.  You may also have a pelvic exam.  Tubal pregnancy may be confirmed by an ultrasound showing a baby outside the womb or showing no baby in the womb despite a large numberhCG of pregnancy hormones in your blood.  Direct observation of the fallopian tube during surgery may be necessary to make the diagnosis.

What Could Cause an Ectopic Pregnancy? Am I at Risk?

In most cases, the cause of tubal pregnancy is not known and there is nothing you could have done to prevent it.  However, a woman is more likely to have a tubal pregnancy if she:

  • Has had a previous ectopic pregnancy
  • Has had an infection of the fallopian tubes or certain sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) such as gonorrhea or chlamydia
  • Has had a pelvic infection
  • Gets pregnant while an IUD is inside her uterus
  • Has had a tubal ligation

What Factors Probably DO NOT Cause an Ectopic Pregnancy?

You may be surprised to learn that these factors do not cause tubal pregnancy:

  • Emotional stress
  • Birth control pills taken accidentally in early pregnancy
  • Work environments and duties

Tubal Pregnancies are Medical Emergencies

If you suspect you may have a tubal pregnancy you should get medical treatment immediately from a physician or to the emergency room of a nearby hospital.  A tubal pregnancy is a medical emergency.  Failure to get help may allow rapid bleeding into your abdomen from a ruptured internal organ, causing an occasional patient to die from shock (dangerously low blood pressure).  At Collage, if you come in for an ultrasound and our sonographer should uncover an ectopic pregnancy, we would advise and assist you with getting medical treatment right away. We provide clients with information and paperwork for you to take immediately to the hospital or ER.

What Treatment is provided for Ectopic Pregnancies?

Typically tubal pregnancy is either proved or ruled out by the tests mentioned above. A fertilized egg can’t survive outside the womb, and can’t be put back inside it. In order to protect the woman’s life, the pregnancy must be terminated and sometimes the fallopian tubes need to be removed through surgery. With early detection of tubal pregnancies, termination of the pregnancy through administering medication is often the treatment and this allows the body to absorb the tissue, with no surgery. Once an ectopic pregnancy is confirmed, you should be informed that pregnancy termination is the only option for survival due to the physical dangers.

Emotions and Feelings After an Ectopic Pregnancy

It’s helpful for you to understand that you may experience a wide range of physical changes and emotions. At Collage, we understand that you may even feel relieved to no longer be pregnant.  On the other hand, you may feel guilty or have a sense of loss, even if your pregnancy was unexpected. These are all normal feelings even if you were unsure of whether you planned to carry your baby to term or not. It may be beneficial for you to talk to someone in order to sort out these feelings. We can offer emotional support to you and those close to you if you need to come in. Feel free to call and set up an appointment. We’ll be here for you.

There are 10 comments .

Rachel Rhodes —

I have a bit of confusing case. My period was a week late after having unprotected sex, I took a plan B pill, and I’m irregular but for a peace of mind, I took 2 pregnancy tests. Both of them came positive. The day before and a few days after I experienced the worse of the worse of pregnancy symptoms. Nausea, dizziness, back pain, moodiness, exhaustion. After finding out that I’m 3 weeks pregnant, I start my period with awful back pain. We go to a women’s reproductive center. They took my blood, did urine, and ultrasound with the wand. The only result I got back at the moment was that they couldn’t see a pregnancy inside of me. They think that I just miscarried the baby. I go back 2 days later to take my blood again for the HCG levels. Throughout the day all of my pregnancy symptoms stopped. No nausea, pain, or dizziness. They said if it goes down from 116 then I had a miscarriage. I said okay. She made me take a urine test that day, the result was negative. Thinking for sure I miscarried, the next day I get my blood test results and my HCG level doubled to 326. They think it’s an ectopic pregnancy. They gave me an OBGYN to call but I don’t know what to do. Any help??

Reply »

    Hi Rachel,

    We’re so glad that you reached out with your questions. Based on what you shared, we can see why there might be confusion. First of all, great job getting in to see someone to take care of your health. Not only that, you followed up with further testing. Good job! If your HCG levels really have doubled, it’s important that you get in touch with the ObGyn your doctor recommended for further evaluation to rule out an ectopic pregnancy (if you haven’t already). Just let them know what you’ve done to this point and what was recommended. An ectopic pregnancy really is a serious health concern so we’d strongly encourage you to contact the ObGyn as soon as possible. They are the best ones to take care of you at this point. And don’t be afraid to ask them any questions that you have.

    Hope this helps give you direction to get the care you need.

    Collage Medical Team

    Reply »
Jeanette Harris —

I am pregnant with ectopic pregnancy i am scared i be hurting alot

Reply »

    Hello Jeanette,

    We’re glad you reached out with your email but just like our blog said, if you suspect you may have a tubal pregnancy you should get medical treatment immediately. You can go to a doctor’s office or to the emergency room of a nearby hospital. We know an ectopic pregnancy can be scary and painful but they’ll be able to care for you.

    Reply »
Megan —

I went to a clinic to get checked out. I wasn’t sure if I was planning on keeping the baby or not . But I went in to get my ultrasound done and she couldn’t find anything. Then I had to go see in a cup along with her putting a long stick up my vag. Test was positive but she still couldn’t find anything to where she thinks she saw something on my tube but she wasn’t ruling it out to be an eptopic pregnancy. But she said it could be because there wasn’t any signs in my stomach. I’m not sure if you’d hear a heart beat but there wasn’t one. And they told me to come back Saturday to get another ultrasound. And I’m reading other things saying er. But I am early about 2 maybe 3 weeks .

Reply »

    Hi Megan,

    I know this is a difficult time for you but you did a really good thing by getting a pregnancy test and an ultrasound. If the medical professional who did your exam thought that you needed to go to the emergency room, she would have told you that. If you have concerns, we would recommend you call her and visit with her since she did your first exam and she knows the details of your pregnancy. If however, you begin to develop symptoms of abdominal or pelvic pain, vaginal bleeding, lightheadedness, dizziness, or blackouts, we’d strongly encourage you to go to the emergency room.

    Hope this helps.
    A Collage Medical Team Member

    Reply »
Patricia —

I had unprotected sex with my husband 3 weeks ago when I was ovulating. I missed my period this month and hence visited had a pregnancy test which came out positive.

I then went to the clinic with my husband to have further checks. After having a scan, I was told nothing is in my womb. Another urine test was done and came out positive.

am I at a risk of an ecpotic pregnancy?

When exactly is the fertilised egg suppose to move to my uterus?

Reply »

    Great questions Patricia! Let’s see if we can help with some of your concerns.

    An ultrasound is performed to confirm the viability of a pregnancy meaning the pregnancy is located in the uterus (and not ectopic) and there’s a heartbeat. In addition, the ultrasound can help determine how far along in the pregnancy you are.

    Implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterus occurs usually between 6-9 days after fertilization (fertilization age) which correlates to 20-23 days from your last menstrual cycle (menstrual age).

    The earliest signs of pregnancy, which would be a gestational sac only, is usually seen between 34-38 days (fertilization age) or 4.5-5 weeks (menstrual age). Even though you had a positive urine test and implantation may have taken place, it doesn’t mean that you’d be able to see the baby by ultrasound right away. It could be that you were still too early in the pregnancy at the time of your ultrasound to see anything in the uterus.

    As long as you aren’t having any of the possible symptoms for ectopic pregnancy described in this blog, most physicians would likely do a clinical follow up to check for progression of pregnancy. This may include another ultrasound, possible blood pregnancy test to evaluate the level of B-hCG and clinical evaluation.

    Hope this helps.

    Collage Medical Team

    Reply »
Julie newsome —

My daughter has just come home from hospital.we nearly lost her she was about 6 weeks pregnant when she starts spotting on Sunday night she took a turn for worse severe pain lie down passing out throwing up an ambulance was called her blood pressure dropped to dangerously low her heart rate down to 45 her pulse slowed down she dehydrated ,she was whisked into resus by this time I’m pacing they made me go out and sat me in a room so they couldbring her back to normal she had drips all over heart monitors. The machines were going mental with alarms flashing red dangerously low .I knew it wasn’t good .they stablised her for a bit then she was off again .she had blood leaking into her stomach it was round the liver. The ectopic had ruptured big time .they said she had to have a blood transfusion and general anaesthetic for surgery she would not sign consent cos she said I might wake up .the senior registrar said if you don’t have surgery you are going to die .I have never in my life been so scared .they made me go back outside in waiting room again to prepare her for surgery and transfusion. I was in the exact same room where I waited for my partner when he was being resuscitated. He bled to death .I said to the medics please save her I’m not going home without her .I went to hell and back till she was awake hours later .it has been a nightmare they removed her tube but she has her life .and her two girls still have mummy and I still have my baby. Ladies and abnormal pain please seek help .women die from eptopics .I can’t thank A and E enough at St James in leeds they save her life

Reply »

    Wow Julie! I can only begin to imagine how frightening this must have been for you and your daughter. Having to walk through such a traumatic experience in the same room where you lost your partner had to be beyond difficult for you as well. I’m so sorry for your loss. 🙁

    It sounds like the medical team caring for your daughter took good care of her and we’re so thankful that she pulled through it.

    Our hearts go out to you Julie. Hang in there and embrace the gift of time and life you’ve been given with your baby and grandbabies!

    Reply »

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