Here’s our guide to ectopic pregnancy — what you need to know, how to identify one, and how to safely address this potentially fatal condition.
What is an ectopic pregnancy?
Ectopic pregnancies are pregnancies that implant, or attach, outside of the uterus. These pregnancies typically occur in the fallopian tube, but can also develop in other parts of the abdomen or pelvis.
Not only is an ectopic pregnancy nonviable, or unable to develop and survive like a normal pregnancy, but it can also cause life-threatening bleeding if left undetected or untreated.
What are the symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy?
While some women don’t experience any initial symptoms of ectopic pregnancies, it’s possible the first signs will be similar to those of normal pregnancy. These can include a missed period, tenderness in the breasts, and unexplained nausea.
Because of this, many women will receive positive pregnancy tests. Unfortunately, a true ectopic pregnancy cannot develop and does not have a chance for survival outside of the womb. The longer the egg continues to develop, however, the more intense the symptoms will become.
Some of the first symptoms that might point to ectopic pregnancies will include vaginal bleeding and pain in the pelvic region. As bleeding continues, some individuals may experience shoulder pain, lightheadedness, and fainting. These symptoms might indicate that the fallopian tube has ruptured and that there is internal bleeding.
See your doctor immediately if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms.
Why are ultrasounds so important?
If you’ve received a positive pregnancy test, it’s essential you schedule an ultrasound as soon as possible. Not only are ultrasounds an excellent way to learn about your pregnancy, but they’re also instrumental in identifying life-threatening conditions like ectopic pregnancies.
Ultrasounds use sound waves to create images that will be displayed on a monitor for you to view. Your ultrasound scan will help identify where your pregnancy is located and if it is viable.
If an ectopic pregnancy is identified, you’ll need immediate care to remove the developing cells.
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