Symptoms of an Ectopic Pregnancy

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Symptoms of an Ectopic Pregnancy

When you're expecting, there's such a thing as "information overload" -- after I became pregnant with my first child 5 years ago, I devoured every pregnancy article, book, and website I could get my hands on, much of which terrified me. There seemed to be an unlimited number of things that could go wrong.

One of the scariest prospects that emerged during my research was the risk of having an ectopic pregnancy (also known as a "tubal pregnancy"). When this happens, the fertilized egg is implanted somewhere outside of the uterus, in most cases lodging in one of the fallopian tubes. This condition is very serious, and can result in maternal fatality if it's not detected early enough for prompt treatment.

Although ectopic pregnancies are relatively rare (occurring once in every 200 pregnancies), it's important to be familiar with the symptoms so you can act quickly if you experience them. Below are some of the most common physical reactions:


  • Vaginal bleeding: Caused by a rapid spike in estrogen levels, this occurs in approximately 80% of all ectopic pregnancies, often accompanied by low blood pressure

  • Pain in the abdomen or lower back: This usually begins after implantation, and is typically concentrated on one side

  • Pain in the shoulder or neck

  • Tenderness and sensitivity of the breasts

  • Nausea and vomiting: This is often mistaken for typical morning sickness

  • Excessive fatigue, caused by elevated progesterone levels

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness

  • Hot flashes alternating with chills

  • Increased heart rate

As many of these symptoms are the same as what you'd experience in the early stages of a healthy pregnancy, diagnosing an ectopic pregnancy can be especially difficult. If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor or midwife right away.

   

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