Ectopic Pregnancies Are Rare But Dangerous
As part of your pre-abortion care at Austin Women’s Health Center, an ultrasound will be performed during your initial consultation with us. This is to confirm evidence of a pregnancy, determine how many weeks you are, and to rule out an ectopic pregnancy. Ectopic pregnancies are rare, making up just 1-2% of all pregnancies, but they can still be dangerous if left untreated. Learning how to recognize the signs can help you determine if you should seek follow-up or emergency care.
What is an ectopic pregnancy?
Normally, during pregnancy, a fertilized egg would implant inside the uterus. But when a pregnancy is ectopic, this means the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus. It happens in 1 out of 100 pregnancies. Most ectopic pregnancies are considered tubal pregnancies, as the egg implants in the fallopian tube. In more rare cases, the egg may implant in other areas like the cervix, scar tissue from a previous c-section, ovary, or abdomen (also known as an abdominal pregnancy.)
Why is it dangerous?
Although rare, ectopic pregnancies can be life-threatening. A pregnancy is unable to develop properly outside of the uterus, and eventually, it can lead to organ or tissue rupture when it “bursts.” While the uterus can stretch and support a growing pregnancy, this isn’t possible in other areas of the body. If a rupture occurs, it can lead to internal bleeding, causing death.
Signs of an ectopic pregnancy
Most ectopic pregnancies are diagnosed by the 12th week of pregnancy, but there are symptoms you may experience that can help you feel informed. Not everyone experiences symptoms before diagnosis, and only half of people experience multiple symptoms. Because signs of an ectopic pregnancy can mimic typical pregnancy or premenstrual symptoms, it can sometimes be difficult to distinguish. But if you think you may be pregnant and experience any of these things, it’s recommended to seek follow up care.
Below are the main symptoms you may experience with an ectopic pregnancy:
- Pelvic/abdominal pain is common. It may be sharp and localized to one side, or it may come in waves. It’s also possible to experience shoulder and neck pain in instances where blood has leaked from the fallopian tube.
- Vaginal bleeding occurs in most ectopic pregnancies and may be light or severe. For severe bleeding, it’s recommended to seek care immediately as this could indicate a rupture.
- Fainting or extreme light-headedness is also associated with a ruptured ectopic pregnancy.
- Nausea and vomiting may also occur. It may be severe, but it can also feel similar to pregnancy “morning sickness.” However, if you suspect you may have an ectopic pregnancy, it’s a good idea to seek follow-up care!
How is an ectopic pregnancy treated?
At Austin Women’s Health Center, we do not diagnose or treat ectopic pregnancies. We recommend you follow up with your primary care physician or closest emergency room if you suspect an ectopic pregnancy and experience any of the previous symptoms mentioned. Once an ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed, there are a few options depending on the circumstances:
- If the pregnancy has not ruptured, an injection of methotrexate may be given to end the pregnancy, similar to medical abortion. Experiencing discomfort and bleeding for weeks afterward is common.
- You also have the option of undergoing a laparoscopic procedure. A small incision would be made in the abdomen to remove the pregnancy and repair or remove a Fallopian tube.
- If the pregnancy has ruptured to the point of damaging the Fallopian tube, removal may be necessary. Those concerned about getting pregnant afterward can rest assured that future pregnancies can happen via one tube.
Can ectopic pregnancies be reimplanted into the uterus?
No! You may have seen recent legislation proposed that would require physicians to reimplant ectopic pregnancies into the uterus. But this is not medically backed by science, and there is no actual procedure that exists for this. Unfortunately, this is another attempt for lawmakers to have complete control over our reproductive lives. An ectopic pregnancy must be removed to preserve the life of the pregnant person, and there is no possible way to continue the pregnancy otherwise.
At Austin Women’s Health Center, your health and safety is our top priority. Our practice and procedures are based on up-to-date medical science, not politics or beliefs! When you come to us, you can be sure you will receive the care you deserve in a safe and supportive environment. Please reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns about ectopic pregnancies.