An ectopic pregnancy occurs in one out of 50 pregnancies. This means that most women will never experience an ectopic pregnancy, but what if you're the one out of 50 who does get diagnosed with this condition? You may be thinking — exactly what happens when I have an ectopic pregnancy? Due to the serious nature of the condition, it's vital for women to recognize the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy and to seek medical help if they're experiencing any side effects.
In a healthy pregnancy, the fertilized egg attaches itself to a woman's uterine lining. But in an ectopic pregnancy, as noted by the American Pregnancy Association, the egg will implant itself outside of the uterus, usually in a fallopian tube. The causes of an ectopic pregnant tend to vary and may include endometriosis, a birth defect in the fallopian tubes, or scarring following a ruptured appendix. You may be at higher risk, too, if you're over 35 or if you got pregnant while using an intrauterine device (IUD), according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Because an ectopic pregnancy can threaten the life of the mother, it's very important to know what symptoms to look out for. At first, you may notice nausea, mild cramping, or breast tenderness. If you start experiencing light vaginal bleeding or abdominal pain, however, it's time to contact your doctor to ask for a pelvic exam and a vaginal ultrasound. But if you have intense symptoms like extreme dizziness or severe pain in your pelvis, abdomen, or even your shoulder, you should seek emergency medical attention, advises Dr. Eva Martin, the founder of Elm Tree Medical Inc. "Many ERs allow you to call ahead so they are ready for you," Martin says. "Ectopic pregnancy can be life-threatening, so it's always an emergency.
Once you've been diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy, you will have a couple treatment options available. If your condition is caught early on, your doctor may opt to administer a drug called methotrexate, which will allow your body to absorb the pregnancy tissue. In other cases, your doctor may choose laparoscopic surgery to remove the ectopic tissue and repair the fallopian tube if needed, the Mayo Clinic concluded. Sadly, ectopic pregnancies cannot continue to term and the ectopic tissue must be removed for the safety of the mother.
If you think you may have an ectopic pregnancy, don't hesitate to contact your medical provider. Whether you're diagnosed with an ectopic pregnancy or not, you should know what symptoms to keep an eye out for — not only for your own health, but for the well-being of your family or friends who may be expecting.