What You Should Know About Ectopic Pregnancies

Ectopic pregnancies are rare, but they are not entirely uncommon. They account for 1 out of every 50 pregnancies, according to the American Pregnancy Association. In an ectopic pregnancy, the fertilized egg implants itself somewhere other than the uterus, commonly inside of the fallopian tubes. It is considered a medical emergency that can be fatal to the mother if left untreated (per Cleveland Clinic). This is because, outside of the flexible environment of the womb, the development of a fetus can lead to life-threatening internal bleeding.

While any sexually active woman is vulnerable to ectopic pregnancy, some women are at higher risk than others. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, people at high risk include those over the age of 35, smokers, people who have had several sexual partners, and those who have a history of sexually transmitted infections. Ectopic pregnancies cannot be prevented, but risk factors can be reduced by maintaining healthy lifestyle habits.

These are the symptoms and risks of an ectopic pregnancy

Half of ectopic pregnancies cannot be attributed to any known risk factors, so women should be mindful of changes in their bodies, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). Early signs of ectopic pregnancy include abnormal vaginal bleeding and abdominal pain, but they could have a variety of other causes. Regardless, the ACOG recommends reporting these symptoms to a doctor.

If an ectopic pregnancy progresses, it will cause sudden, severe pain in the abdomen, pelvis, or shoulders and may cause dizziness, weakness, and fainting. If you have these symptoms, the ACOG recommends going to the emergency room. There is currently no way to save an ectopic pregnancy, but a woman is more likely to survive if she is treated as soon as possible, either through medication or surgery (per the U.S. National Library of Medicine). If the ectopic pregnancy ruptures a fallopian tube, fluids, oxygen, and a blood transfusion may be necessary.

Unfortunately, people who have ectopic pregnancies are less likely to have successful pregnancies in the future. If you get pregnant again, the ACOG says to watch out for symptoms of another ectopic pregnancy until your doctor is able to confirm that the pregnancy is taking place inside of your womb.