Perhaps you’ve heard of the term “Ectopic Pregnancy” before. While they are not extremely common (occuring in about 2% of all pregnancies), ectopic pregnancies can be life threatening if not discovered early on. With all of the emotions and decision-making that come along with a positive pregnancy test, it is important that one of your first steps after finding out you’re pregnant is to confirm that your pregnancy is healthy and safe.
What Is an Ectopic Pregnancy?
In a normal pregnancy, the woman’s egg gets fertilized and attaches to the lining inside the uterus, where it will spend the next 9 months developing and growing. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the egg is fertilized and implants somewhere outside of the uterus.
In about 90% of ectopic pregnancies, the egg is fertilized in the fallopian tube, which has the job of carrying the egg from the ovaries to the uterus. Less commonly, the egg can become implanted in the abdomen, ovary, or cervix.
Can an Ectopic Pregnancy Be Carried to Full Term?
In short, an ectopic pregnancy cannot be carried to full term. Once a pregnancy begins outside of the uterus, there is no way for medical professionals to relocate the pregnancy to the uterus.
The early stages of an ectopic pregnancy look very much like a healthy pregnancy. A pregnancy test will still show as positive and many of the symptoms will be similar to what you would experience with a pregnancy in the uterus. However, the uterus is the only organ in the body that is able to support a growing baby; it is flexible and able to expand as the pregnancy progresses. The fallopian tubes are not able to support the pregnancy’s growth. If a pregnancy outside of the uterus goes untreated while the pregnancy continues to grow, the fallopian tube may rupture, causing internal bleeding and possibly death. Therefore, it is important for you to determine the health and viability of your pregnancy as early as possible, even if you are not considering keeping the pregnancy.
How To Determine if a Pregnancy Is Ectopic
Ectopic pregnancy symptoms typically begin to develop between the 4th and 12th weeks of pregnancy. Oftentimes, these symptoms are very similar to those of early pregnancy:
- Nausea or morning sickness
- Breast tenderness
- Missed period
- Positive pregnancy test
Some women with ectopic pregnancies may not have symptoms in the beginning, until more serious symptoms begin to develop as the fertilized egg continues to grow outside of the uterus:
- Pelvic pain or pressure
- Dizziness or weakness
- Shoulder pain
- Vaginal bleeding or spotting
While symptoms can certainly help to clue you in to the possibility of an ectopic pregnancy, the most accurate way to determine for certain if your pregnancy is ectopic is to have an ultrasound. An ultrasound will be able to show whether or not the pregnancy is located in the uterus and is progressing as it should be.
If you need an ultrasound or are searching for pregnancy help, make an appointment at The Women’s Center at either of our locations in Middlebury, VT or Ticonderoga, NY. Our free ultrasounds are performed by one of our medical professionals at our location in Middlebury, VT.
Ectopic pregnancies can happen to anyone, however women who have experienced any of the following may be at a higher risk for ectopic pregnancy:
- Previous ectopic pregnancy
- Previous pelvic or abdominal surgery
- Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs)
- An IUD in place at the time of conception
- A history of smoking tobacco
- A history of infertility or going through infertility treatments such as in vitro fertilization (IVF)
- Pregnancy that occurs after you’ve gotten your tubes tied
Although the above factors have shown a correlation with women who have had ectopic pregnancies, up to 50% of women who have had an ectopic pregnancy did not have any known risk factors. If you are sexually active, it’s important to be alert to any changes that are happening in your body and to schedule an ultrasound right away if you are experiencing symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy.
Treatment for Ectopic Pregnancy
Ectopic pregnancies are treated with medication or surgery. Because of the dangers of the continued pregnancy, the treatment requires putting a stop to the growth of the fertilized egg and ending the pregnancy. If the pregnancy is diagnosed early enough, medication will likely be used to stop the pregnancy. In other cases, surgery may be required to remove the pregnancy before it becomes too large.
Is the Treatment for Ectopic Pregnancy Considered Abortion?
Especially after the overturn of Roe v Wade, there has been confusion around ectopic pregnancy treatments and abortion. While treating an ectopic pregnancy does require a pregnancy to be removed, ectopic pregnancies are considered “unviable” and are not able to grow to full-term. They are medical emergencies which require treatment in order to protect the health and life of the mother.
The ectopic pregnancy treatment and abortion consist of very different procedures and medications to remove the pregnancy. Treatment for an ectopic pregnancy is not considered an induced abortion.
How The Women’s Center Can Help
While ectopic pregnancies are not common, they are certainly possible and happen in about 1 in every 50 pregnancies. Regardless of the odds, if you are in the early stages of pregnancy, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and to confirm the viability of your pregnancy as soon as possible.
At The Women’s Center, we have a team of medical professionals on staff who are ready to help you ensure your pregnancy is safe and that you have the support and resources you need. If you have questions about ectopic pregnancy, are in need of an ultrasound, or would like help navigating any other pregnancy-related issues, our team is here to help. Text us at 802-222-0858 or click here to schedule an appointment online.