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Ectopic Pregnancy: Are You at Risk?

Tubal PregnancyLast month, Pregnant in Heels star Rosie Pope made a heartbreaking confession. Before the birth of Wellington Reade in February, the reality star had suffered an ectopic pregnancy, which caused her to lose one fallopian tube. No one really talks about ectopic pregnancies, since they are such tragic events that are fairly rare. However, rates for ectopic pregnancies are increasing.

Ectopic pregnancy used to be extremely rare, but in the last three decades, this pregnancy complication has become more common. According to the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), roughly 1 in 50 pregnancies is an ectopic one.

What is an Ectopic Pregnancy?

In a healthy pregnancy, after conception, the fertilized egg will travel through the fallopian tube and make its way to the uterus, where it will embed itself and begin to develop into a baby. When you have an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg doesn’t make it to the uterus. The fertilized egg implants in a location outside the uterus – most often in one of your fallopian tubes. (For this reason, ectopic pregnancies are sometimes called tubal pregnancies.)

tubal pregnancy

Sadly, a baby cannot grow and develop in the tight space of your fallopian tube. The pregnancy cannot develop without putting your life in danger. If the fertilized egg continues to grow in the fallopian tube, it can lead to the fallopian tube bursting or becoming damaged. This can lead to heavy bleeding, which can put the mother’s life at risk.

Once an ectopic pregnancy is diagnosed, the pregnancy has to be terminated. This can truly be heartbreaking for the woman it affects.

Are You at Risk for an Ectopic Pregnancy?

Almost any woman who is sexually active is at risk for having an ectopic pregnancy. However, there are a subset of women who are at higher risk for developing an ectopic pregnancy.

This subset of “high risk” women includes smokers, women over age 35, and women who were exposed to the drug diethylstilbestrol (DES) while in the womb.

Women who have scarring in their fallopian tubes are at higher risk for ectopic pregnancies as well. When there is scar tissue in the fallopian tubes, this may make it more difficult for the fertilized egg to reach the uterus. Conditions that might cause fallopian tube scarring include pelvic inflammatory disease, a sexually transmitted disease, infertility, and endometriosis. If you’ve had previous tubal surgery (like getting your tube tied) or you have a history of ectopic pregnancy, you’re at higher risk for this pregnancy complication.

Signs and Symptoms of an Ectopic Pregnancy

What makes ectopic pregnancies complicated is that the signs and symptoms often feel like regular pregnancy symptoms. Common signs of an ectopic pregnancy include nausea, fatigue, sore and tender breasts, a missed menstrual period, and increased urination. All of these signs are nearly identical to the signs of early pregnancy.

If the ectopic pregnancy progresses, the woman may start to notice other symptoms, including abdominal or pelvic pain, light or heavy vaginal bleeding, pain during sexual intercourse, feeling dizzy or lightheaded (due to internal bleeding), and shoulder pain (due to blood from the ruptured fallopian tube building up under the diaphragm).

Diagnosing an Ectopic Pregnancy

The bottom line is that it’s difficult to diagnose an ectopic pregnancy based on its signs and symptoms. Diagnosing this condition takes time, and it often involves a pelvic examination, an ultrasound exam, a blood test (to check the levels of the hormone hCG – the pregnancy hormone), and a blood pressure check (since low blood pressure can indicate internal bleeding).

Diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy is a process, and the results aren’t always clear right away. Sometimes, you may need to take multiple tests. If an ectopic pregnancy is found to have ruptured a fallopian tube, you will be rushed into surgery right away. However, if your ectopic pregnancy is in the early stages and there’s no danger of your fallopian tube rupturing, you may be able to take medications – the most commonly used drug is called methotrexate, which will stop the cells from growing any further.

Should You Be Worried?

Don’t be scared of having an ectopic pregnancy. The chances are good that you’ll have a healthy pregnancy. But, if you’re worried about anything, or you feel that something just isn’t right, don’t hesitate to pick up the phone and call your doctor or midwife right away. Trust your gut feelings!

About the author: DP Nguyen is founder and editor of Hip Chick’s Guide to PMS, Pregnancy and Babies. She’s an expert pregnancy and women’s health blogger. She is NOT a medical doctor and does NOT offer medical advice. Connect with her on Google+, Twitter and Facebook.

{ 10 comments… add one }
  • Empress May 20, 2016, 10:52 am

    Plz be careful when you go to the er before you see your private doc. I was in pain so I went to the er to get check out they told me was an ectopic pregnancy. I told them no I don’t have symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy and my God in heaven showed me that I was going to have my baby because I am a strong believer in Christ. When I ask them for proof of the images from the ultrasound they couldn’t of you me they told me I needed a speacial degree to read an ultrasound I just shook my head. They was ready to take me to do surgery to cut my tubes off and it had other ways to get rid of an early ectopic pregnancy. They know once they cut my tubes off then murder my baby in the uterus they know I wouldn’t of found out. They was so mean about this whole thing. I went to my doctor the next day and he showed me my ultrasound with my little baby in my uterus. He said the pain was coming from my body just expanding to support my baby. Those er doctors was ready to kill my baby and lied to me. Hospitals are business they only care to make money and don’t have any heart what so ever shame on them God would deal with them. Always have and second opinion and always follow your heart. Don’t get panic and make a decision right away if I had done that I would of lost my baby and my right tube. God bless

  • kirsty July 5, 2015, 9:10 am

    Hi can anyone help…I get normal monthly periods but on Friday nyt my period started as normal but has ended already after 1 an half days? Also I’ve not suffered from pains before an I’ve been in very bad pain in left side since and bad back pain also ? That’s still continues. Thanx in advance x

  • keysha June 4, 2015, 1:23 pm

    So I have have spoting of brown discharge a week before my period the next day June 3it was light pink now today it’s a light heavy flow of dark red blood or bright red but I don’t start my period till next weekplease June 9. Mind you I have 3kids n just last year I had a 3day surgery after aborting my fourth child I’m 24 it was a one time thing but can u help me out please

  • Izzy February 11, 2015, 6:28 pm


    so last time i got my period was december 2,2014. On jan.2 i was supposed to have my period but missed it through out the whole month . But
    Indid notice spottting almost everydayy and on feb.1 i was heavily bleeding as if i was onn my period. But no pain&i lept bleeding thru my close and usually my perio lasts 6 days buti am stilll
    Bleeding. Heavily as of today 2/11/15z what should i do?or what is the causee off this

  • Jessica October 9, 2012, 1:18 am

    Hi I’m Jessica I Just Had My Baby August 18 And Two Days Later Received The Depo But Since Then I Haven’t Stop Bleeding I Didn’t Follow The Docs Rules About No Sex Till After 6 Weeks But I’m Still Bleeding I Stop For A Day Or Two Then It Will Be Kinda Heavy Should I Be Worried.?

  • DP Nguyen May 11, 2011, 2:18 pm

    I think the risk is highest for ectopic pregnancy after 1-2 years of getting your tubes tied. But it is a scary thought, I do agree. I personally would rather have the man do it, less invasive 🙂

  • RachelJoy May 11, 2011, 2:15 pm

    Ugh..this is why I’m a little apprehensive about getting a tubal ligation. Because even with that it’s still possible to get an ectopic pregnancy.

  • cristal May 11, 2011, 7:19 am

    newest follower just wanted to say hi 🙂 http://www.buildinganewhive.blogspot.com

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