Normal pregnancy: A normal pregnancy occurs when a fertilized egg implants itself inside of the uterus. The fertilized egg continues to grow developing into a fetus.
Ectopic pregnancy: An ectopic pregnancy happens when a fertilized egg implants itself outside of the uterus. An ectopic pregnancy can occur in the ovary, abdomen, cervix or fallopian tube, but more than 95% of the time it occurs in the tube. That’s why an ectopic pregnancy is often considered the same thing as a “tubal pregnancy”.
Tubal pregnancy: A tubal pregnancy occurs after the fertilized egg implants itself in the fallopian tube and begins to develop. The egg however, cannot survive outside of the uterus because it will not get the nutrients it needs, nor have enough room (in the tube) to grow.
What are the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy?
The early symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are the same as a normal pregnancy, such as a missed period, breast tenderness, and sometimes, nausea.
Symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy may include:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Cramping and pain in the lower abdomen (belly)
Later symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy may include:
- Sharp pain in the belly area
- Heavy vaginal bleeding
Who is at risk for an ectopic pregnancy?
Any female can have an ectopic pregnancy, but certain conditions can put you at a higher risk.
These conditions include:
- Previous ectopic pregnancy
- Pelvic infections in the past (such as chlamydia and gonorrhea) that may have caused scarring of the fallopian tubes
- Scarring of the fallopian tube(s) from past surgery
Can a fertilized egg survive outside of the uterus?
No. A fertilized egg cannot live outside of the uterus. It needs space to grow and a source of nourishment.
What are the types of treatment for ectopic (tubal) pregnancy?
The type of treatment depends on when the ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed. If it is early, the standard treatment is a medicine called Methotrexate. This medicine works by stopping the egg from growing. If the ectopic pregnancy is advanced surgery will likely be needed to remove the egg (from the tube, abdomen, cervix, or ovary). In the case of a tubal pregnancy, the fallopian tube can burst and cause serious bleeding. If this happens, the fallopian tube will need to be surgically removed as this is a life-threatening emergency.
Females are born with two fallopian tubes. If one is damaged or removed, the other tube should function normally.
If you think you could be pregnant, it is important to find out and get early prenatal care. Pain and bleeding during pregnancy is NEVER normal. If you have any unusual symptoms including; pain, vaginal bleeding, lightheadedness, dizziness, or nausea, go to the closest Emergency Room (ER) and get checked right away. Tell the ER staff if you are sexually active and get a pregnancy test. If the test is positive, you'll likely have a pelvic ultrasound to make sure that the pregnancy is in the right place.