Warning Signs of an Ectopic Pregnancy

Warning Signs of an Ectopic Pregnancy

With an ectopic pregnancy, you can expect the same first trimester symptoms as any other pregnancy: a missed period, nausea, fatigue, and breast tenderness. You can also expect a positive home pregnancy test. 

However, an ectopic pregnancy isn’t a normal pregnancy. It’s a potentially life-threatening gynecologic condition that requires immediate medical care. 

At Speck Hopkins, MD in Harlingen, Texas, our highly experienced and skilled gynecologist, Dr. Lena Speck Hopkins, wants you to know the warning signs of an ectopic pregnancy so you can quickly get the care you need. 

About an ectopic pregnancy

Like your symptoms, an ectopic pregnancy starts out like all other pregnancies. Your egg gets fertilized by sperm and starts its journey to your uterus.

Unfortunately, with an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg fails to reach your uterus. Instead, it implants itself in other parts of your reproductive system. 

More than 90% of ectopic pregnancies end up in the fallopian tubes, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. However, the fertilized egg may also implant itself in the ovaries or cervix.

Without the nutritional support provided by the endometrial lining in your uterus, the fertilized egg can’t survive anywhere else. However, the egg may continue to grow, leading to a life-threatening situation such as a ruptured fallopian tube. 

Ectopic pregnancy risk factors

Anything that slows down the fertilized egg’s journey to the uterus may result in an ectopic pregnancy. There are certain conditions that may place you at risk of having this type of pregnancy, such as:

For the record, many women who have an ectopic pregnancy have none of these risk factors. Knowing the warning signs, however, can help you get the emergency medical care you need. 

Warning signs of an ectopic pregnancy

Initial signs and symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy may be difficult to differentiate from a normal pregnancy. 

However, abnormal vaginal bleeding during the early days of your pregnancy may be one of the first warning signs. You may also have mild pelvic pain and cramping on one side of your lower abdomen. 

These early symptoms may or may not be due to an ectopic pregnancy, but they are symptoms of concern and warrant a visit with Dr. Speck Hopkins. 

As the ectopic pregnancy grows, your symptoms may worsen, causing more severe pelvic pain that may radiate into your shoulder. You may also feel weak and dizzy. 

If your fallopian tube ruptures, you may have severe pain followed by low blood pressure and fainting. A ruptured fallopian tube is a medical emergency and you should call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room right away. 

Most ectopic pregnancies are found during the first trimester.

What happens next

An ectopic pregnancy is not a viable pregnancy. Once it’s determined that you have an ectopic pregnancy, we may recommend one of two options for treatment: medication or surgery.

Medication

If your fallopian tube hasn’t ruptured, we give methotrexate by injection to stop fetal cell production and end the pregnancy. This method saves your fallopian tubes.

Surgery

If you have a ruptured fallopian tube, you need surgery. Some women without a ruptured fallopian tube may also need surgery to remove the egg from the tube or the egg along with the fallopian tube.

When performing surgery for an ectopic pregnancy, we use minimally invasive laparoscopic tools and techniques to reduce scarring and recovery time.

No matter what method we use to treat your ectopic pregnancy, you may feel tired for several weeks as your body recovers. And, because it takes some time for your pregnancy hormones to level out, you may continue to “feel” pregnant after treatment.

We schedule regular follow-up appointments following an ectopic pregnancy so we can carefully monitor your physical and emotional well-being. 

Pelvic pain and abnormal bleeding are some of the early signs of an ectopic pregnancy. Early care may prevent the need for surgery. We can provide the answers and care you need. For gynecology care, call our office at 956-264-1600. 

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